Actor Jibola Dabo on Ayo Mogaji,living in USA,bad actors and religion.
Jibola Daboh profile.I just love this actor Jibola Dabo.A very stylish man who always makes an impact on screen.I love his distinctive white beards and the glint in his eye.You can tell he is a lovable rascal when you see him act.There are many sides to Jibola Daboh,he was a footballer,a dancer,a jazz musician and a believer in traditional medicine and religion.Jibola opens up on a lot of things in this interview,from he not partaking in many Nollywood English films due to tribalism,to his affair with Ayo Mogaji and why they stopped their relationship,(i was quite surprised they got together,cos i don't think they suit each other,but i guess opposites sometimes attracts) to talking about his children,his love for Jazz music and much more.This is one article you are going to enjoy reading...Some calling him Dabo,Dabor or Daboh,it's all the same man,but one thing that cannot be mistaken is the presence of the man,once you see Jibola,you will never mistake him for another..happy reading....
You seem to prefer sitcom to acting in the English movies, why?
That’s a question several people have been asking me even the last time I was in United Kingdom on Ben TV and Passion TV. I told them I don’t have a ‘Chukwu’ in my name so does not qualify to be in what is called the Nigerian English movie industry, an industry that does not exist because we don’t have any English movie industry. As far as I’m concerned, I am an actor either I act in Yoruba or Hausa language.
There is nothing like English actor or Yoruba actor. We are all actors. I know a time will come when mediocrity will no longer be celebrated in the movie industry. It is no longer news that the government has shown interest in the industry, corporate organizations too now believe in us for their adverts. So you better use the best, if it is not good, advertisers will not put their money there and if they do the first time they cannot be deceived the second time. Of course, I’m a lucky one that has been blessed with the skill and talent to go whichever way I want to go in acting. A lot of people don’t know that, even some of my colleagues. Sometime I put my acting on one side and pick up my drum and play jazz. I can’t claim to be a jazz musician but I have flair for jazz. I’ve played with a lot of jazz bands both here and abroad. So when the time comes for me to display my God-given talent I just go wild and I am happy doing it.
How did your foray into the entertainment world begin?
I can’t say I started acting twenty or forty years ago but I know I grew up knowing I’m an actor. I have started being on stage doing biblical plays since I was a child then in primary school to secondary.That was when I started a drama group but it was a comedy group, but I called it drama group. I know, categorically speaking, that I’ve been going this path since 1961 when I played the Good Samaritan. I have several names by which they call me. If somebody says Samson, I know this is from my primary school or secondary school because the major play I did then was Samson and Delilah. I have always been into Arts to the dissatisfaction of some of my uncles. I must say that their disagreement also encouraged me to say I want to be the best.
There is this uncle of mine that hated me doing the Arts though he’s late now, thank God before he died in the 80 when I did Rage in Harlem, it was Bros Ben Tomoloju that wrote about it. I could remember the caption, it was ‘US-based Nigerian actor faces Rage in Harlem.’ When I came back my uncle was like, you’re actually taking this to places aren’t you? And I said yes because he never expected that. When I was in Nigeria and I was doing stuffs like ‘At your service’ and ‘Awada Kerikeri’ he just thought I’m being stupid wasting away. But to God be the Glory, before he died, he came to respect what I did. That’s how I started. I think the only time I deviated from Arts was when I was in sports; when I played football. I did that briefly, played for several clubs and I went back to choreography. My first love in theatre is dance, which I was privileged to be director of Black Heritage then. When I was in America, I always came back home to do some bits on TV, that was when I was even working except for the 90s that I didn’t show up in Nigeria at all.
While away in America were you there to study or you went in search of greener pasture?
I went to study but I knew I had to stay back there. That has always been my dream because we all know that America is the place of arts, a place where you can express. So I have gone on tour of US and come back home and realized that I had to stay on there.
And while you were in the US you were practicing traditional religion?
And you still do till date?
I still do.
Are you a Christian?
I was born a Christian, my name is Michael but the point is that, I am this person who as a young boy pulled out of Christianity that I don’t have to throw away my tradition to believe in God. It is hard for me to call myself a Christian because I don’t believe in some of their ways, the fraud in Christianity today. I don’t believe in the foreign churches, it’s a turn off for me. I don’t believe in the nuisance they create, with their loud speakers.
I’ve lived in countries where God actually answers prayers and nobody disturbs the other. Even in London I have an apartment there and it is adjacent a very big church, the only way you know a service is going on is with the number of cars parked on the road. Apart from that, I do not look down on that man on the street as an African traditional believer contrary to a lot of these ignorant people calling themselves Christians or Muslims who will think they’ve seen Babalawo. Babalawo is a diviner that does not make him a Christian or Muslim or an atheist.
The man is a diviner. An African person does not have a differentiation between him, everyday life and his religion, that is why an African person can’t tell you this is my religion, because we do not separate our religion from our everyday life. He lives it. I agree that there are some things that we need to change in our religion just like the Christians and Muslim did. But we have not come together to say let us move with the trend. Because of the suppression and oppression that have happened to the African man, the little they have, they hold unto it and it became secret. It’s not supposed to be secret, ok.
Sometime ago you were referred to as a Babalawo by the media?
Do you remember my response then? I said I wish I have enough knowledge and brain to be one. I wish I have. I wish I could devote time to study and know what a Babalawo knows. Most of these so-called idiots who are PhD pastors, they cannot assimilate, I’m not talking about fraudulent Babalawo, we don’t even have too many of them any more. Babalawo is supposed to be respected, they mount the pulpit and criticize them but you now go to where any of these so called unbelievers worship, they will never condemn any religion. So why condemning them? I have a pull to study them because I know I’m supposed to be a priest, but the point is that I have been too reluctant to study to be one, so what I can do is to appreciate it, learn the little I can understand that there is nothing wrong in you being a Christian, nothing wrong in you being a Muslim, nothing wrong in being a traditional African believer because there is no tag on it.
The western world has put a tag on it – animist – they call it, polytheist because they believe we have more than one God, but I have this answer for them: it is simply lack of knowledge. If an African can believe that your God the father, Son and the Holy Ghost is three integral part of one, then how come you cannot believe or understand that the Orisas are several integral parts of one. God is too big to be one, and He’s big enough to be millions. He is an entity that you don’t even know what size, what gender He is. What tells you God is a man because the Bible or the Quran tells you? You look around you and you see that God must encompass both gender. Which of the several traditional religions do you belong?
It depends on what deity they worship in your family? My grand father was already a Jacob before I was born and like I said, it is never a separate thing. I know your next question will be why are you always wearing white? I know the spirit that is assigned to guide me. I understand Obatala, an embodiment of purity, that’s why you see me in white. I didn’t meet any shrine in our house when I was born. My father’s name was Abraham; nobody forced me into what I believe. I was born Methodist, which also makes me not to understand these churches now. I know we go to church with the big benches, we pray, drop a small offering and somebody is there to help you. But today it’s about best cars and the suits you wear; you know I just cannot compromise. And we hardly ever deal with religion. Religion is just a show room for spirituality but I like to go beyond religion. Do you own a shrine?
No, I’m not even pure enough to be a priest or own a shrine. This is no Church or Mosque that anybody can own. May be God will guide and accept me to give me more knowledge to own a shrine, even in the movies we produce, a lot of wrong messages about the traditional African believe are shown. I have had cause to walk out of a production because of this misrepresentation.
You’ve been around the entertainment world for a long time, have you produced any movie?
I want to produce because I realize one of the easiest ways to get my work out the closest way I want it to be is to produce, initially wasn’t for the idea but because artistes are terribly paid, that’s one. The industry is unregulated. You as an artiste, you are just getting used, you give out what is priceless, that is your artistic skill, almost for free as if you are giving out nothing. And you realize if you produce by yourself, you will get more money, so you look for your uncle, boyfriend or your aristo to sponsor you. And for some of us, it is not about money, it is about fame.
You want to become a star and they don’t star you either you are not good enough or you just don’t have enough niche to have somebody in your pocket. Maybe now that there are some regulations, maybe things will change. A lot of movies do come out that even the viewers do not watch. They watch actors, their favorite actors, it doesn’t matter if that actor is good or not. A lot of these producers do not even know what production is, he doesn’t even know what feasibility study is. I tell you 99% of them don’t even know what it takes to be a producer.
Let’s revisit your crashed marriage to Ayo Mogaji?
Well, that should be long gone now. Ayo Mogaji is married to her husband so what do you want to talk about that for? I think what everybody needs to know about myself and Ayo Mogaji is that whatever happened between us was beyond us. It was a divine thing and now I know that God said she’s going to have a child through me. There was no love thing there,
it just happened?
Wait a minute, you said there was no love?
Yes, there was no love, we were friends in the past, we came back and it happened and we thought ok, let’s make this work and it didn’t work because we just have different lifestyles. That doesn’t make anybody bad. Her ways are different from mine. I’ve got some things she doesn’t like; she got some I don’t like so we said ok, let it go.
But she was smoking and drinking before you met her?
Did she not stop it? Now people do not want to ask that, why did you lie to this guy?
You lied, you claim you goona stop, suck this guy in and you went back to it and then you claim you don’t know why this guy left?
Is that enough reason to leave her?
Yes, it’s enough because the relationship is about living together. For example, I never told her to stop drinking, I said stop getting drunk. There is a big difference. I buy beer at home and drink but I don’t get drunk.
Your other family, how are they?
They are fine, they are doing well. My older daughter in America is studying Medicine, that’s Desola. Her little sister Tinuade is doing fine, they both have the flair for arts but I don’t push anybody. Of course, there is my son, the one that has made me a grandfather, my daughter runs a saloon in Abuja she does just nails. So they are doing great, we still pray and hope for the best for them. And then of course my boy, I mean I just called Ayo not quite long ago that I’m missing my boy, she said ‘your boy is there”, he sees you on TV everyday. When you want to see him just come and make sure we are around” so it’s not that we are enemies. We are on talking terms.
You play jazz music but this genre is hardly appreciated in Africa? A point of correction, Jazz is an African thing and it started from Africa. Jazz left this shores to the Western world, but the point is that the trend has left Jazz behind. Today, because of lack of morals, the fall of educational standard which has decreased the mindset and level of thoughts of our youth, they can’t really grab what jazz is. I am not really insulting our youths, however, you still have few of them that understand what jazz is all about. The difference between Jazz and other music is that jazz is polyrhythmic; it’s usually like an organised confusion and if you listen to our music in Africa that’s what you get. The point is that we don’t have the patience to sit and listen to jazz. This is a noise society we are in and Jazz is not noisy. We live in a noisy society today and so you want the loudest noise and fast pace tempo of the music, the way you can jump up and dance.
Do you play regularly?
Not regular. I have not been on drums for quite a long time, but I also play percussion, Konga and tambolism. You’re very fluent and your phonetics is sound, but one cannot say this of some of your junior colleagues who can’t even interpret their roles well.
Who do you blame for this?
It starts from the executive producer who is not willing to pay trained actors for their jobs and then their complaint which is well founded is lack of market for the products. They are not making too much money, so they pay one or two good actors and then look for some of these up- and – coming ones and pack them inside there. So, it’s the syndrome of trying to make more profit and not investing more. There are some up- and -coming actors that are good, but they are not being used because they are yet to be given the opportunity to be out there because of the market. When the marketers believe that somefaces don’t sell, then they are killing the industry. So what you should do is to give them opportunity to come out, you will see more. It’s getting better. They need to learn, go to workshops because we all need to learn. We all cannot live abroad, but we can train ourselves, get on the internet because we never had opportunity to get trained through the internet. There are books to read today, they are all there. Don’t start by trying to become a star You are always on set with these guys.
Have you thought of doing a workshop for them?
I have done that but they did not come. They don’t come. What an actor wants to do today is that immediately they see you, they want to become a star. They don’t want to learn; you organise a programme or a workshop for them, they don’t want to come and pay, they want to get it for free. However, other things we do is that we meet some of them on set and we tell them, ‘you don’t pronounce this like this’. There are some young actors who listen and follow what I say. I’ve met some, who will say, ‘when I am on set with you, it’s like when I am on set with Uncle Olu,’ which means Olu is doing the same thing. We are trying to see how we can train them to grow.
Which actor keeps you on your toes?
There are a few of them that I enjoy. You want to talk about people like Olu Jacobs, we understand the language, I am very sure that a lot of producers enjoy watching us together. There are some young ones coming up like Michael and I love Yule Edochie. Among the females; you have people like Ini Edo or Mercy Johnson. People like Genevieve don’t come anymore. There are quite a few of them. The problem is that by the time they are mixed up with mediocres, they are mostly thrown into the basket of non-actors trying to be actors, and you can’t see their proweress, but there are quite a few of them I enjoy working with. I have been on TV series with people like Tina Mba, Carol King and I listen to them speak English and I know these are people who understand what spoken English is all about and I am hoping to bring people like that back for us to stop this idea of where you are from and what clique you belong to. If you are a good actor, I don’t care if your character is terrible, all I am interested in, is for you to do my job and get out of my set.
Some of your colleagues believe that if you feature in soap opera, your market value in the movies will fall, do you share the same opinion?
It’s one syndrome we need to correct. It’s only in African countries that we have big movie stars still doing TV series. I trained in America and what you do in the Western world is that producers or executive producers shop for actors on TV. They shop for actors on TV because TV is like a brewing ground to come on bigger screen. It’s not like that here because actors are not making enough money to do just few movies and relax. That’s why people think I am a Ghanaian because there was a time I starred in five different soap operas in Ghana.
I told them I am not a Ghanaian but a Yoruba man. I travel a lot; I travel around Liberia, Ghana and other places because you have to do so much to survive. Saying that your market value falls, that’s how it’s supposed to be because you are not supposed to come back to TV if you are on the big screen. I will tell you why. If you want to spend your money to watch this man on the movie screen, why must you see his face every day on the TV? It doesn’t work like that except in Nigeria and that’s because those at the helm of affairs do not know the difference, because you are supposed to graduate from TV to big screen; but we shuttle because you need to have this money and pay the bills.
Why do you barb clean but keep white beards?
I left Nigeria for a while when I was doing TV/stage in Nigeria in the 70s and 80s. I had fully curly black hair and beard. Years later, I found out I was growing bald and I didn’t want to struggle with this and I took it out and it looked good on me and I still look good on it. If I dye this, what happens to me; it’s my nature and this gave a lot of my colleagues the mind to leave their grey hair the way it is and stop dyeing. It’s my brand and who I am. However in the movies, I can change the shape of my hair and colour it, if they want me to be a younger person, I will do that because I am an actor who can go from 20 years old to 90. I develop myself as a versatile actor. You’re a lively person and you always have people around you, what’s that attraction in you that keeps people around you.
I am a fun loving person. I am a flirt, that is if you understand what flirt means. That does not mean I play around. No! I don’t play around; I like meeting people and making people happy. When you talk about being a flirt, people will zero their minds to flirting with women. You can flirt with men and women, and it doesn’t mean you are gay. Flirting means you like to make people around you happy. Mostly, men flirt with women and women flirt with men. I can flirt with 10 of the women here; I don’t have anybody’s number and if I see you tomorrow I will not even remember you. But anywhere I am, I like people around me to feel part of what is going on there. I hate anyone to think that he is little or small. So when I am somewhere, I don’t like anyone to cringe ‘oh… that man is there’, I like to bring you close and make you feel close and speak your own language. So, I am fun-loving and I like to impact knowledge as a teacher, but you cannot teach unless you can mix with younger ones of lower class as you may say. But, sometimes I may look private or a recluse or I want to be alone.
What’s your opinion about gay?
I lived abroad most of my life, I don’t have any business with them. I am sorry for anybody engaged in such a thing; the person is demented because I don’t know how a man can like his fellow man. I can’t criticise the man who decided to get attracted to his fellow man because I don’t know what is on his mind. To me as a man, nothing can take the position of a woman in my life, so, maybe I am the wrong person to ask that because I love women. But nobody has come in the open to admit being gay in Nigeria No, they do. We see them now and I am sorry for them because they don’t know what they are missing.
by TOPE OLUKOLE and ORJI ONYEKWERE for Newswatch Times.