I Have No Regret Being A Theatre Practitioner - Jimoh Aliu
The first sign of Jimoh's interest in theater arts was ignited by the songs of the legendary practitioner, late Chief Hubert Ogunde. That was when he became an ardent listener to Ogunde's records at every nook and cranny of Lagos whenever it was being played on the age-long gramophone. An encounter with him by TOPE OLUKOLE was quite revealing and refreshing as he, exclusively, revealed his most kept secret in this no-hold-barred interview.
One of the songs Ogunde sang in an advertisement of a drug called Aspro; a message spread, then, to Lagosians by helicopter, later became his favourite song which goes thus:
'Aspro lo le se iwosan
Orififo and arun ibao
Aspro lole se iwosan
Jimoh would, immediately, abandon whatever he was engaged in; off he went with the advertiser. He was always one of the spectators who would, first, arrive at the venue of any Ogunde's shows. Carrying the source light, a gas lamp at such venues, was a major chore Jimoh never hesitated to do. He was always fascinated by Ogunde's wives who were great dancers in costume which included 'boogie' shoes and long socks. Kaka, a short man, was the trumpeter.
Once the voltage level of the gas lamp began to decrease, it will be pumped back to life on his head; swinging his neck to the sides. His gas-lamp-carrying job always gave him the joy of boasting when he retired home to his neighbours about the exemplary acting prowess of the Ogunde Theater group.
“Who are you to go near the great Ogunde? His neighbours would quip. “I was there throughout their show. As a matter of fact, I carried their gas lamp on my head for the entire duration of the show”
The young Jimoh never had a thought, then, in his mind that one day in future, he, the gas lamp carrier would become one of the close confidants of the lamp owner. He would then ponder over the great acts by the practitioners who, he still thought, were from heaven.
“When will I join these great men and ever entertain an audience like them in my life?” The turning point came when Akin Ogungbe performed during one of his public outings while Jimoh was surprised by their superlative performance.
“So these plays I do watch in the films could be performed on stage in the public? He never wasted time to think over it before he pleaded with Mubashiru to allow him to join the Ogungbe group. Fortunately, the request was granted to him, thus, becoming the latest member of the theater group.
His first duty in the group, then, was to be hawking the Xmas festive caps which were crafted by Ogungbe until one day at Ifo, the group leader drafted Jimoh to real acting.
As the group was going round the towns and villages plying its trade, the numerical strength was diminishing. Prior to that time too, he was in charge of tending Ogungbe's babies like Omolara and others and driving away people who were in the habit of perching on the windows to watch shows free of charge at Ogbomoso.
There came a day that one Sunday Olori Ode and Baba Iyabo left the group unceremoniously and unannounced like those who had gone earlier. Jimoh and Late Ishola Ogunsola and one other fellow were the only members left in the group. Ogungbe was flatly confused on how to forge ahead.
“Who among you is ready to try his skills in acting”? Ogungbe asked them, looking perplexed over the vacuum created by the departed members. Jimoh did not allow Ogungbe to finish the question before an answer came. “I am ready sir,” Are you sure? “Yes”.
Ogungbe, then, assigned the role of a ghost to Jimoh. His mastery of the role did not only enliven the spirit of Ogungbe, the group leader instantly confirmed him a member of the first eleven of the group.
Using charcoal mixed with Robin blue as mascara to depict himself as a ghost, unknown to others was Jimoh's innovation which had become a popular make-up style in the theater industry in Nigeria, till today. The first actor he groomed in the application of the style in in his own group was Fadeyi.
Ogungbe was elated to have fished out the theatrical skills in Jimoh after wasting away all these years. Since then, it had been different roles for Jimoh in stage plays. Moreover, his skills in trumpeting were exhibited in his days with the Ogungbe group.
Jimoh's post military life was full of the advantages of his life in the military. When the troupe resumed the travelling theater, its major focus were educational institutions, mostly, in the Northern Nigeria .