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JIMOH ALIU

Source: nigeriafilms.com
Background
I am Chief Jimoh Aliu (MFR), the Elejoka of Oke-Imesi. I was born in Oke Imesi on November, 11,1936. I only attended elementary school briefly. My mother hailed from Iloro-Ekiti, while my father was from the Asalua family of Oke-Imesi, now Ekiti State.

I am a dramatist, playwright, sculptor, film writer and director. I am a keen cultural enthusiast. I work for whatever will uphold the dignity, sanctity, development and sustenance of my culture and race. In recognition of the above qualities, I was bestowed with an array of awards and chieftaincy titles. Some them include: Member of the Federal Republic (MFR), Asipa of Iloro-Ekiti, Elejoka of Oke-Imesi, Tayese of Ilawe-Ekiti, Baba Oba of Ola, in Lagos; I also have other awards and recognitions from communities and institutions (pointing to myriad of plaques in the sitting room).

Coming into theatre arts

My sojourn in the theatre is by God's design. My mother was into a previous marriage before meeting my father. For 17 years, she was married without a child. Upon the death of her first husband, she was to be betrothed in widowhood to the late husband's brother, but she declined. The late husband was known as Arowosodun Ifa.

Meanwhile, during my father's numerous trips for Ifa divination/counsel, my mother was brought to him. Before she could explain her mission, my father had allayed her fears, assuring her that she would bear fruits. The only condition was that she would have to marry him to bring the prophecy to pass. She was aghast and furious and subsequently vandalized his paraphernalia.

She left raging. But one thing led to another and my mother was later forced to return to marry my father, who was then 70 years old. However, my mother had confessed perceiving strange but invisible footsteps behind her, and a voice continually asking "will you buy a drum for me"?

My father, who all along was privy of her experiences, later interpreted that strange encounter to her. Her fears were allayed as she was told that the footsteps and voice were that of her unborn but defiant child, who would be born with divine inclination for drumming and dancing. That divination heralded my coming into this world. My mother thereafter had six of us among whom my sister survived.

My father was 136 years old when he died. He was hale and hearty before he passed on.
I was once a bricklayer and I had my hands in many things in my pursuit of a breakthrough. But curiously from childhood, I've always been attracted to drama. Whenever I heard the drumming of masqueraders or learnt of a troupe performing nearby, I would leave whatever I was doing, and rush to take a look.
In my youthful days, I always heard about the late Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola and Akin Ogungbe who is still alive.

When Akin Ogungbe came to perform in my town, I saw it as a golden opportunity to introduce myself. I hurried to the scene. I offered myself to the troupe and volunteered to help them carry the mobile gas-lamp on my head. That was how I joined the troupe.

Akin Ogungbe taught me the rudiments of drama. He was my master. Though, I got encouragement from others too, particularly the late Chief Hubert Ogunde and late Kola Ogunmola.
Before becoming a dramatist, I worked at the motor park and I was once a bricklayer. I even attempted joining the army.

Formation of ANTP
Initially, there was nothing like association or umbrella body for theatre practitioners. The idea for the formation arose from the days of the late Duro Ladipo and his group. He was on a performance tour of London and discovered a group known then as Kuti group. The group was vested with exclusive power to sanction any group against performance in Britain, if not the whole of Europe then.
On arrival in Nigeria, that encounter culminated in the formation of what was then known as eight leaders. The leaders usually met at Mbari-Mbayo at Adamasingba, Ibadan as well as the residence of the late Chief Ogunde at Yaba, Lagos.

When the group ceased to exist, there was a theatre workshop at the University of Ibadan where the question was raised that theatre practitioners deserved government support. When farmers needed loans, they got it. If contractors needed loans, they also got it but when an artiste needs a loan, it becomes impossible to secure one. And yet we pay entertainment tax and other levies.

It was at that workshop that the organizers advised that we should organize ourselves by establishing an association, which would be recognized by government. I consulted with Moses Adejumo (Baba Sala), the late Duro Ladipo, who requested that I should compile the list of all members to effect the same. But sensing the difficulties that may arise as a result of logistics, I boldly went to consult with Chief Ogunde and humbly explained the intention on behalf of other practitioners.

Isola Ogunsola, a young man and myself from the Oluyole group did most of the work. I was on the list of trustees. My name is prominent on the certificate of incorporation. I was a signatory to the certificate. I single-handedly registered the association, though with the support of other key practitioners earlier mentioned. It may interest you to know that Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), single-handedly paid the registration fee. I have the original copy with me till today. The registration was done in 1976.
Life at 70

I feel great. I feel healthy and I know all is by God's grace.
I neither drink nor smoke. I do not chew kola nuts habitually either, except when it is absolutely necessary during prayer sessions or libations. Also, I hardly take soft drinks just as I am not in the habit of keeping girl friends here and there no matter the situation I find myself. Above all, there is no condition or situation I find myself that I don't accept. This is why I give thanks to God and I glorify Him.

I spend close to 10 hours everyday to pray in my prayer room. I do exercises too, I jog. I was once a boxer too. But outside these, I usually engage in creative drawing or play writing. The inspiration may just come in a jiffy, and before I know it, I may have to jettison whatever am doing at such moments to answer such calls.

Most importantly, I realize that in life, drinking, smoking, and womanizing and all other habits accelerate the aging process. In fact, they can lead one to an grave, so moderation is the keyword! In everything we do, we must learn not to be excessive about it. I think that is the secret of my youthfulness despite having clocked 70 years.

My religion
I am a Muslim first and at the same time, I am a Christian. I am also a traditionalist. There is a saying that only a bastard points to his father's house with the left finger. No one wakes up any day without calling unto God Almighty for one thing or the other, be you a Christian, Muslim or traditionalist. So, I believe we all call on the same Lord the creator. The only difference is the way and manner we call on Him according to our faith. The only difference is in the language; the channel.
In everything one does in life, if the name of God is not invoked or His consent sought, it will be in futility! It won't just work!

Advice to theatre practitioners
I call on the present leadership of the ANTP led by Prince Jide Kosoko to be prayerful and move closer to God. We teach the world a lot through our plays; through our performances. Through those plays, we should educate our people on why they should move closer to God. We can only do that by showing good examples, I will advise that the association set aside a day each month or once in a quarter for prayers. We should invite clergymen to pray for all our members.