Popular actor, Prince Jide Kosoko, in this interview with Olushola Ricketts of the Punch Newspaper, speaks on his passion for acting, the death of three wives and the tussle for power in the movie industry.
What makes this year different from previous years for you?
The year has been a very good one for me. I have been going from one production to another. As you can see, I am on a movie set as we speak. Once this project is completed, I will travel out of the country. Also, I have not recorded any negative incident this year and I thank God for that.
How do you manage to remain active despite your age?
It is perhaps the grace of God, the will to achieve and the will to continue to prosper in my chosen career. I am in love with my profession and I am always determined to face new challenges. However, I thank God that I am full of experience in my profession and life in general. But the truth is that you must continue to learn and there are certain things where you are still a complete novice.
What profession do you think you would have been practising if you didn’t venture into acting?
I wouldn’t know. I don’t know what would have become of me if I hadn’t taken to acting. What is certain is that I would have been engaged in a profession where I would be able to demonstrate my creativity as well.
I started acting precisely in 1964; I think I was just 10. You know what that means especially at a time when parents didn’t allow their children to venture into acting. I started in primary school and since then, I have been acting professionally. My first performance was Makanjuola, a stage play.
Did you ever think you would attain this level of fame?
I might not have known it would get to this extent, but I wanted to be like my role model, Hubert Ogunde. Then, we both lived in the same vicinity. Whenever he passed, people hailed, adored and respected him. Seeing all that, I said to myself that I would love to be like him. That perhaps must have prepared me for what I am today.
How were you able to cross over to English-speaking movies?
I think an actor should be versatile. If I am given a role in the French language category for instance, all I need is time to master the language and I will deliver. If you talk about English, I think I am learned enough to go with the flow. But acting to me is the same all over the world regardless of the difference in languages.
I find acting in Yoruba and English movies fulfilling and I feel comfortable acting in both. We have people who are in this industry and are desperately trying to make money while others just go with the crowd. However, my passion for the industry goes beyond all of that. As one of its pioneer members, it is my desire to see the industry develop at all times. I will continue to contribute my quota until I die.
Do you have concerns about the movie industry?
When we started, the doors were opened to everyone regardless of your background. Though that made us have an industry today, we are now regretting that we didn’t set standards. Then, we were happy that people were joining us in what we were doing.
Yes, in all sincerity of purpose, the style (welcoming everyone) we started then was one of the reasons we have an industry today. But like any other growing industry, you will see unserious participants and people who could not define the reason they joined an industry.
All the categories of people I mentioned above will soon leave and I am happy that we are now going back to the cinema culture. The cinemas will prepare serious professionals who can produce something good technically and otherwise. Then, people who cannot meet up will have to leave.
In the Yoruba sector where I come from, everyone sees themselves as producers and directors and it cannot continue like that. If you are a producer, produce well. As an actor, act well. So, whatever aspect of the industry you find yourself, try to do it well.
Upgrading is important; people need to train continuously to ensure that their skills don’t become outdated. If at over 60, I still went to study Performing Arts at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, it goes a long way to tell you that learning is a continuous process.
When was the last time you produced a movie?
I produced a Yoruba movie titled Akanni, last year. It is a comedy movie and I had a good outing.
Was the movie pirated?
There is no movie that doesn’t get pirated in Nigeria, especially a successful movie. Piracy is our common enemy. But I strongly believe that the cinema culture, which we are all embracing now, will curb piracy.
Of course, we’ve asked the government to find a stiffer penalty for pirates because the one in the copyright law is not strong enough. I think it is one of those things encouraging people to pirate other people’s works. So, we have begged the government to give a tougher penalty. If possible, they should leave out the option of fine unless the fine is huge and they make sure that offenders pay.
Was there a time you wanted to quit the industry?
There was no time. Yes, there have been challenges. Even when we started and there was no money in it, we enjoyed it and felt happier doing it than now that there seems to be more money in showbiz. Then, we were doing it for the passion, but when money started coming in, the happiness was divided. My best periods in life are when I am on set working because I love my job so much.
What is responsible for the disunity in the industry?
I don’t think there is disunity. I agree we have multiple associations and there is nothing bad in that. Our industry, as far as I am concerned, is new and various things are expected to happen. Ambition will make people establish other associations and it will make people think they have better ideas than their leaders.
Also, some people feel they can use the leadership of their respective body to make money for themselves. Others believe that their participation in the administration will help get more jobs. And if some people don’t have a cordial relationship with the leadership of an association, they think the best option is to leave.
We established the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, which is the foremost association. Though I was not part of the formation, I was at its inaugural meeting. I was even elected to be one of the national executive members under Hubert Ogunde. So, looking at that period till date, you will realise that I have contributed in no small way to the development of theatre association and I worked hard to make the association popular. From being the PRO, I rose to the position of the president.
While I believed I had served the association well, it got to a point when some elders in ANTP thought Oga Bello and I were becoming too powerful in the industry. They felt it should not go on like that. They even went ahead to convince Bello to betray me. But in his own wisdom, he knew they were difficult people to understand and he didn’t do that. He came back and designed a way forward for the association. But in a situation where we had an enemy who was determined to hijack the association for selfish reasons, what do you expect us to do? For more than nine years, we were in court and they later claimed he (Victor Ashaolu) won the case.
Since he is not a professional and he is not practising, we see him as someone who has nothing to offer the industry. I fought the situation. But when my colleagues told me that we shouldn’t drag a case with him if we meant well for the association, I left him to do whatever he wanted to do. With the support of some elders, he went on. But few months after we left, they started fighting each other and divided the association into two. Ashaolu now leads one part while Jimoh Aliu leads the other. We were thankful to God for letting us pull out before the split.
Our new association, Theatre Arts and Motion Picture Producers Association of Nigeria is a gathering of focused people with the same interest. You were at our convention; so, you should be able to say what the association looks like. Nobody is fighting anyone and there is no leadership tussle there. Everything is going accordingly.
At my age, should I even be fighting for positions? We have children and younger actors who are experienced enough to take the mantle of leadership. What people like me and Bello should do is to give them the necessary support because I believe that is what we need in the industry. Everyone must work together to move ahead.
But one thing is certain and I want you to put it in mind. All associations will soon collapse as soon as we set up the Motion Picture Council. The council will be a body that will take decisions, regulate the industry and ensure that the rules and regulations of the profession are strictly adhered to. We are waiting for the government because it must pass through the National Assembly.
Don’t you feel some people may work against the new body?
Some persons are already working against it, according to what I heard. But I consider them to be irrelevant people.
Do you plan to go into politics?
At first, I planned to venture into politics. But I must be sincere with you; I am so attached to my profession. My profession doesn’t really want rivalry and politics will give it a good rivalry.
I still belong to a political party, which is the All Progressives Congress, and I’ve contributed my bit. But I have refused to seek public office through an election. If I am given an opportunity to serve in any capacity, I may take it, but I love what I do, which is acting.
We have been able to identify some serious-minded people and we plan to give them support. It is not possible for everyone to be in government. If you think you must be there before things work out, the country will still be in problems. All I can say is for us to give good advice to those who are there. By that, you would have contributed positively to the country in a way.
Did you encourage your children to take after you?
I feel so happy about it because it goes a long way to say that I have been institutionalised. I have passed the baton on to them and they will also pass it to one or two of their children. Once it continues like this, our name will remain indelible. At the moment, I don’t really watch my movies anymore. I prefer to watch the ones my children featured in. Whenever I sight loopholes, I try to call their attention to it. If their argument is superior to mine, I surrender.
How come your daughter, Bidemi, is always in the news for the wrong reasons?
All the people blackmailing my daughter are bastards. If truly she did whatever they’ve said she did (dating a married man), whether she likes it or not, she will be punished. But if they are telling lies and trying to destroy her image, the people involved will not go unpunished.
If you know Bidemi well, she is highly disciplined and she has her own way of doing things. Unlike her sister, Sola, Bidemi is outspoken and principled. I don’t think it is an offence to be principled. So, if she doesn’t take nonsense, so be it.
Everyone cannot be like me. Though it is good to be humble, I can tell you that being humble also attracts unnecessary insults. Since some people don’t like being insulted, they keep to themselves. But people like to attribute it to many things. If you decide to blackmail people unnecessarily, then, you must check yourself. It means something is wrong with you, and there is a problem between you and God.
So you are certain your daughter didn’t have an affair with Bose Alao’s husband?
When I heard the news, the first thing I did was to call her to know what went wrong. I know if she had done that, she would not tell me she did it, but I know my daughter. Apart from seeing her grow, even as an adult, I am very close to my children and I know what they do every minute. If you ask me where Bidemi is as I speak with you, I will tell you. I don’t joke with my female children especially. Their lifestyle is important to me.
For people who are always blackmailing our actresses, they should turn a new leaf. This is part of the disadvantages of the social media, as everyone wants to talk. A friend once told me that some people are mentally disturbed or sick. Since no one checks what they say, they say whatever they like and get away with it.
I am not saying our actresses are completely innocent. We actually have people with funny characters, but the majority of them do not engage in the things they are accused of.
Are you closer to your daughters than your sons?
The female children have challenges mostly. If anyone goes after a lady and she shuns his advances, he may go to social media to insult her.
I always advise journalists to stay away from false stories because the more you get into them, the more trouble you find for yourself. We’ve forgotten some journalists today even though they are still alive. Instead of them to practise the profession diligently, they were busy blackmailing people.
Have you ever been blackmailed?
That is not news anymore. I have been blackmailed many times, but I sailed through. They have called me a ‘ritualist’ before, which means I am a murderer.
What came to mind when certain people claimed you used your wives for rituals?
Initially, as a human being, I felt bad. But my skin is too thick for all that rubbish. Instead of feeling bad, I will go on my knees and pray to God to give His judgment. And I always see these people get their judgment. I don’t want to mention names. I don’t know anything about what is happening to Kemi Olunloyo and I don’t follow her on social media. Apart from her, there are other people who have rubbished my name in the past.
Do you see yourself getting married again?
At my age and with over a dozen children, why should I marry another wife? I still have a wife, but people are mixing things up. I have heard many terrible things about me. There was a time some people said I have moved in with another woman. They have forgotten that my wife, who is still with me, Alhaja Bimbo, was a senior to my late wife, Henrietta. The first child we had together has graduated in America, but they think I just got a new wife. She is the only woman left with me.
What do I need another wife for? Maybe you can tell me. Becoming a polygamist wasn’t my design. With my upbringing, I am not supposed to be a polygamist. Though my father was a polygamist, he didn’t marry the number of women I have married.
My first wife, Sola’s mother, was working with the Nigerian Customs Service. She was not involved in my industry and then I would travel for two months. So, I was tempted to take a second wife. But unfortunately for me, in the circumstances I cannot explain till today, I lost two wives within a year. You can imagine that! So, I decided not to remarry again, though I had girlfriends; I was a ladies’ man.
Two of my girlfriends were very close to the house and my friends too would come with their girlfriends. So, we were almost turning the house into a brothel. Later, my doctor, a lady, visited me and advised me to remarry. She said it was the best for me, insisting that I was too young to be without a woman. I lost my two wives in 1992 and 1993 respectively, and I was not up to 40 then.
I agreed to take a wife in the long run, but I had two women who were intimate with me – Henrietta and Alhaja Bimbo. Since I couldn’t say no to either of them, I married two wives again.
Do you regret marrying many wives?
At a point, when I started having issues, yes, I regretted. I said to myself that if I didn’t have more than a wife, I would not be in the news in a bad light. But am I the only one that has domestic family problems? I don’t think I am the only one. Without being too negative or defensive, we have seen a family where the children, father, and mother died at the same time.
I thank God for all that might have happened to me. But regrets come when there are issues. But all my wives have given me beautiful and responsible children.
How have you been coping without Henrietta?
I cannot say it has been easy because her memory will never leave me. She was in the industry with me for a very long time, for 22 years. We were acting and moving around together. All that has been written about her in the media is enough for me to continue to think about her. She had her own shortcomings and I have mine too, but we endured each other. With all the things she did, I will continue to miss her.
Don’t you think it is unwise to marry in the same industry?
It is perhaps the best because getting married to a woman in your industry means she will understand your trade and she will not have issues with your movement. I salute those who are not in the entertainment industry but are married to people there. No matter how strong they are, they will always question the sincerity of their spouses.
What would you have loved to do differently?
I would have loved to be more educated. In whatever you do in life, education matters. I know there are people who are educated than me but are not doing much as I do. But I have always believed that if I have had more education, I would have done many good things many years ago for the betterment of the industry.
Why didn’t you take education seriously at a time?
I started acting at the age of 10 like I said earlier. But for a former Federal Commissioner for Works and Housing, Alhaji Femi Okunnu, maybe I won’t even go to a higher institution at all. So, proceeding to Yaba College of Technology at a time I did was because he advised me to get a good education. I did business administration at Yabatech.
How do you wish to be remembered?
I want to be remembered for my professionalism, as one of the people who fought for the stability of the movie industry and as one who contributed hugely to the growth of the industry.
If you want to be a successful actor, my advice is to get trained regardless of how talented you think you are. Someone must still take you through the rudiments of the profession. If you are not trained and you find yourself in the industry as a result of your talent, you will still go back to learn certain things or you learn on the job, but learning on the job takes more years.