I AM A PRINCE, BUT I WON'T BE OBA â€“ JIDE KOSOKO
Ace actor, Jide Kosoko, also a film producer, model and out-going president of the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners, (ANTP), is a prince and could be oba in future by virtue of his birth. But he does not nurse such ambition. He is also probably nursing a grouse with Lagos touts of the commercial buses popularly called Molue by Lagosians. Reason: He was once embarrassed by some touts. The actor spoke to Saturday Sun about his childhood, reason he would not be oba, the ANTP leadership tussle and so many other issues.
We understand you played a lot of pranks while growing up, tell us some of them.
Pranks? (laughs) Of course, there were many of them. Most of them were played because of my ambition to become what I am now. Right from the age of 10, I had made up my mind to be an actor. But my parents were vehemently against the decision. You know then there was this prejudice against theatre artistes.
We were considered as lay-abouts, lazy and never-do-well people. So, parents never wanted their children to venture into acting. Showing my interest in the profession that early met with fierce opposition. My parents insisted that as a royal shoot, I should be entertained and not become an entertainer. I must also tell you that at that age I was very rascally. That must have made my parents afraid of my becoming an actor. My father was always wondering how a boy of royal birth descends so low to choose acting as profession. But I was resolute and I played a lot of pranks on them to have my way.
There was a particular time I made a dummy that looked like me on my bed while I went out for a night performance. My parents were deceived but I spoilt everything when I came back the following morning and ran into my mother in her room. On another occasion, my mother almost caught me while we were headed for a performance at a far place. She was determined to stop me and she came to the bolekaja (a certain lorry for conveying a large number of travellers), she was enraged, threatening fire and brimstone if the team failed to produce me. As usual, they lied that I was not with them. She forced her way into the lorry and searched furiously for me. I was in the lorry covered with a wrapper and she even stepped on me but did not find me.
As a prince, how was your relationship with commoners while growing up?
What do you mean by commoners? I did not know the difference between those from humble homes and I when I was growing up. In fact, I did not fancy staying with my royal family. I had lived more closely with people not of royal blood. At Ebute Meta where I grew up, I mixed freely with every Tom, Dick and Harry irrespective of their backgrounds. And let me tell you I was even more rascally than the so-called street commoners. During festive times I was the one sponsoring refreshment, celebrations, masquerades, dancing, singing and all that.
How romantic has your polygamous marriage been?
I am really enjoying myself. I am a polygamist and I am proud to be one. I love my two women and they love me very much too. They have beautiful and successful children for me, some of who have also joined this business of acting.
Would you accept to be oba when it is your turn?
It is very wrong to ask such question and also equally wrong to answer it. The current king is still very young, vibrant and dynamic. Traditionally, it is very wrong to ask such question from a prince. It is like praying for the death of the present king. It is very bad. Personally, it is not my ambition to be a traditional chief. I have a different calling.
What is the most embarrassing encounter you ever had?
My embarrassing moments are also many. Let me just tell you two of them that are still fresh in my memory. I don't usually drive alone but there was a day I drove my BMW alone in Lagos. A taxi had inadvertently hit me at the back, crushing my bumper and left tyre. And then, not having in mind to demand for repairs, I just came down from my car to see the damage. Just then a Molue approached and some of the touts in it shouted in Yoruba: Jide Kososko, se iwo lo tun nda ona ru, oni ti juni? Ode gbe moto eh kuro loju ona, se bi awon fans e ni! (Jide Kosoko! So, you are the one causing the traffic jam! Have you no shame? Is it not one of your fans that just hit your car, why don't you just move your car away from the road!). I got so embarrassed that I just kept quiet for so long. The other time I was so annoyed that I slapped somebody and then immediately people around started beating up the fellow in my defence. And then I began to regret ever reacting the way I did.
Do you have a role that you consider most challenging?
Every role I have ever played and every film I have ever produced are challenging. But the one that gave me the greatest challenge was my stage production entitled Ogun Ahoyaya which has been staged in several theatres across the world. It would soon hit the screen. It is a historical play centred around events in Yoruba land in the 18th century. It is about the legendary feud between King Kosoko, my great great grand father and King Akintoye.
What is your happiest moment in life?
My happiest day in life was the day our late Chief Hubert Ogunde publicly described me as an honest young man, who is never afraid of saying the truth. That was in the early 70s.
What is greatness to you?
A lot of people erroneously rate wealth as greatness but honestly to me I have seen a great man when I have seen a lot of crises he has been able to settle, and a number of problems he has been able to solve. Someone who has contributed in no small measure to his community and his country and that everyone can emulate is great. A great man should not only be a humanitarian but also an activist whose ideas have enlightened others. This is why Gani Fawehinmi to me will forever remain a great man.
Why did you refuse to hand over to a caretaker committee when plan to ensure a fresh election was dropped?
I am still the out-going president of the ANTP. And I am still insisting that I will not hand over to any caretaker committee. That is certain. I will not relinquish power until a smooth transition through election is achieved. I did everything to ensure we have a hitch free transition but some spoilers in the association threw confusion into the process. They created chaos so serious that the electoral chairman had to postpone the election. They created a kangaroo committee because of their influence in the association's Board of Trustees and I say this will not work. I have always held that If you know you have a favourite candidates among the contestants who are not likely to win, it is nobody's business. Let the people choose who they want. When I was the president, I tried as much as possible to be neutral in the game, that does not mean I don't have a favourite candidate but I have not done any shady thing to have my way. I have always endeavoured to tread the right path, so let them allow the election to hold so that the people can make their choice.
Can you say more on the misunderstanding you have with Lere Paimo and Jimoh Aliu?
Lere Paimo and Jimoh Aliu are elders of the ANTP that we respect so much. But their activities recently have been undermining the association. I challenge them to come out and talk and I will tell the whole world what they are doing. I have been enduring a lot of blackmail for some time. People have said a lot of baseless things and lies that I embezzle millions of money. I will not tolerate all these any longer. I will personally ensure that the association moves on. What most of them do not know is that I have been part of the association from the onset. Even from the time of our first leader, Chief Hubert Ogunde.
Ogunde was the first president and I am the fifth. This alone is a thing of pride for me. Right from time, I have always been an apostle of doing the right thing and saying the truth. These are the things I am known for. They are the things that have made me in the association. At the time of Baba (Ogunde) you can go to him one on one and talk to him. But to embarrass him in the open, you have offended the whole association not only him.