I thought I would die when my fiancé jilted me last year –Princess
The last one year has been traumatic for actress and comedian, Princess Oluwadamilola Dada. She was not only jilted by her beloved fiance, a police inspector also manhandled her and threatened to shoot her dead. She recalls both experiences in this interview with ADEOLA BALOGUN and 'NONYE IWUAGWU.
I learnt you had a brawl with the police recently. What actually happened?
I was driving along Oregun Road around 10 a.m. on July 11 when a policeman emerged from nowhere and stopped my car. I didn't see him on time because it was at a corner, so it took me some time to slow down. He hit my car mirror and broke it. Immediately I got down, he together with his colleagues started saying 'sorry, Princess, we didn't know it was you.' But I said it did not matter who I was, that where he stopped me was dangerous and that he didn't have to hit my car to break my car mirror. As he was apologising to me, an inspector came and said, 'Who is she? Why are you begging her? Is she not just a woman?' The guy was telling him that it is Princess, but the inspector said he didn't care who it was and ordered the policeman to stop apologising and get back to his post. I then told him that his man had damaged my car and that he had to see the extent of the damage, though he had apologised. But he began to rant. People started gathering to intervene but he rough handled those who tried to let him reason. He threatened to shoot me and say that I stole something and then he would take me to anti-robbery. I started crying because I was so shocked to say anything again. A man approached me and said he was a policeman in mufti and pleaded with me to leave the place to avoid a mob action against the policemen. I called the PPRO and told him what happened.
What did he say?
He asked me for the name of the officer who broke my mirror and I said I didn't know. I then turned back and went back to the spot to get the name. I parked and walked up to the guy and told him that his superiors wanted his name and right there, I called the PPRO to give him the name. I was still on the phone when this same inspector charged at me and said even if I was calling the IG, both of us were mad. I was telling the PPRO to hear what the inspector was saying. He threatened to shoot me and hit me on my chest and my face. I was helpless and frightened because I feared that he could shoot me and get away with it the way he was going. I suspected that he was drunk or on something. Meanwhile, my phone was on and his superiors were aware of what he was doing to me. I had to struggle to get out of his grip and ran away from the place to avoid being killed by a drunk police officer. I went to report the case and I was promised that the case would be looked into. I learnt that the inspector ran away, but I was assured that he would be dealt with. I want to see that something is done, because not long ago, they beat up 9ice. Now it is me. It can happen to anybody. There was a day at Ajose Adeogun (Lagos), a policeman suddenly jumped in front of my car. I then parked and came down and said Mr Man, you shouldn't have done that. Supposing you were knocked down. He said, madam, leave that one. Nobody fit jam me, I wear uniform! Can you imagine? Why should a policeman touch me in the first place, even if I did something? I feel so disappointed about the whole thing.
Have you always been friendly with the police?
Yes, some of us artistes had a rally recently where we met with the police to consider how we can work together. We met the CP then and he educated us on various things concerning security matters and cooperation with the police. And we have been doing that. That was why I even called on that day. That was not the first time policemen have harassed me. We were driving around Adekunle sometime and a policeman arrested us and threatened to shoot us. He actually shot into the air. He said we should sit on bare ground and said if he killed us, he would throw us inside the lagoon and nobody would know. I have been harassed so many times. On my birthday, a policeman stopped us and said he would detain us for one hour even if we had all our papers complete. That was very late in the night.
Are you disappointed that despite being a popular face, you were still treated that way?
I feel bad about it because outside there, people celebrate us, but not in our home. I remember one day, while I was shopping in London, some Nigerians recognised me and called me Princess. Immediately the shop owner learnt that I was a popular comedian in Nigeria, her countenance changed and she said I should not join the queue. She took my autograph and I felt on top of the world.
So what is Princess doing currently?
We are trying to rebrand, because I have an annual show that I do with the support of other comedians. I had a programme last year that was supported by Governor (Raji) Fashola. It was about incest in the society. The issue has really bothered my mind. While I was serving in Ibadan, I went to a secondary school to discuss the issue with students. After the programme, they all came to me and said, 'Oh, my uncle is sleeping with me, what can I do? I don't know how to go about it, etc.' I then told myself that if it could be rampant in Ibadan, then it must be worse in a place like Lagos. When we had the show in Lagos, we had so many people who had been suffering in silence without having anybody to talk to. Grown up men who had been abused came up to us and asked for help.
Did that emanate from any personal experience?
No. But what happened is that during our CDs, we were asked to bring different topics for discussion. While everyone was saying AIDS, STDs and all that, I came up with incest which I thought had not attracted any attention from the society, as if it is not common. I told them that the issue had been bothering my mind since 1997. I said I knew someone who actually slept with his sister and it kept bothering me. And I could not tell anyone because people tended not to believe it. It was revelation galore when we met with the secondary school students: some whose fathers, uncles, father's friends and others were sleeping with.
What have you found out is the reason for committing incest?
The major problem right now is that people don't even accept that it is happening.
The show we had at MUSON, a 28-year-old man came out to talk about how he was abused for about eight years.
When the issue of incest caused a serious scandal in a prominent Nigerian family recently, what came to your mind?
I was just laughing. It still boils down to what I just discussed. You see, when something happens to people, you don't just sit down and say it does not concern me, because it can happen to anyone. If you allow a man to get away with something bad, he would come back and get away with something worse next time. This thing had been happening. But when it happened to someone that everybody knows, that was when people believed it. It's been there for years. Are you saying that those secondary school students deserved to be abused because they were kids or because they were not popular? It is not supposed to be so. When something happens to your neighbour, you should be bothered, because what goes around comes around. When the police beat up 9ice, nothing was done about it. Now, they have beaten me. So if they beat up Sunny Ade tomorrow, what will people do? They will even say that after all, when we beat so and so people, what happened?
Since this is something you have been working on for years, have you found out that some people practice incest for rituals as it is commonly insinuated?
Whether it is for ritual or not, that is by the way. The issue is incest is wrong morally, physically, spiritually and in whatever way you can think about. It does not matter what religion you practce; it is wrong. For Christ's sake, it is evil, it is not normal. People with that problem should be apprehended and rehabilitated. I know a lot of ladies that can't even sleep with their ex-boyfriends. It is not normal.
Let's go memory lane. How did comedy come about?
I had always been a stage actress. Then in 2000, I was involved in a production in UNILAG where I was told that I am a funny person; that during rehearsals, the way I said things was funny. I was encouraged to try my hand on comedy, at least at a close level. That was how it started. Later, I met with Gbenga Adeyinka who encouraged me, especially being a female. But when I met with Wale Adenuga in 2003, that was when it started fully. I played the lead role in Super Story and after the production, he said to me, 'You are a comedian. You should do comedy for a living.' I said, 'No, I am an actress.' He said he had seen me relate with people and all that, that I should go for comedy. He said I should try and if after three months, it didn't work out, I should come back to him, that he would pay back all my expenses. That was the encouragement he gave me.
Are you no longer interested in acting?
I love acting, that is what I love doing most. Acting brought me out, but as we have our own plans, God has His own. I am an actress and a comedian. If anyone calls me for their movies, I will participate, because that is what I love doing. It is just that sometimes, the timing is the problem. Maybe I have a show that may take me outside the country, but I don't like disappointing people. I have been having invitations to feature in movies, but if I am free at any time, why not?
Why do you wear dreadlocks?
I was born with dreadlocks but my parents took it off. I just decided to grow it back when I had grown up.
So you are a 'dada'? (Yoruba name for children with dreadlocks).
Yes, I am.
They say dadas are mysterious beings…
Yes, we are. But when people say that, it is not that we are evil. Like this thing that happened to me now, if it happened to someone else, I would take it up just as I am taking this up. I am not someone who would watch one person maltreat a weaker person.
Is Princess your real name?
Yes, it is part of my name. You know Yoruba usually have many names. I am Princess Oluwadamilola Dada. Dada is my first name.
What did you study in school?
I studied Electrical/Electronics Engineering for my OND and Creative Arts for my first degree.
How were you able to do that?
Actually, what happened was that I had always been an actress and when I wanted to go to school, I wanted to study something outside it, because I knew I could act naturally. Moreover, I was good in science. But I later had to go back to Dramatic Arts in the university, and it has really helped. I studied Electrical/Electronics at the Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro and Creative Arts in UNILAG. I was the social secretary for Madam Tinubu Hall and Creative Arts Department. I ran for the Social Secretary for the student union.
Have you ever been embarrassed on stage during a show?
Because you didn't get the joke right?
No. There was a time in Abuja I did a joke on married men and one of the people in the audience didn't like it. He started shouting, telling me to get lost, abusing me. He came back stage If not for the intervention of other comedians around, he would have attacked me. He said I was telling their secrets to the whole world; that now, his wife would be wiser. But I said it was only a joke. The man was livid with rage.
You are not married yet.
Is that by choice or by design?
I don't know what you mean by design. But I am not married yet.
But you have a child.
No, I don't. That child is my niece, my younger sister's daughter but she looks every bit like me. If I should have a child, I think I should be pregnant first.
Why are you not married yet, no suitor?
I am just taking my time. Guys come but my heart was broken last year. I decided to take things easy.
Who broke your heart?
Somebody a lot of people know. He is not an artiste. We had a programme at MUSON and I introduced him to everybody who came for the show as my fiancé. At the end of the day, he broke my heart.
Did you take his permission to introduce him at such a place?
Well, it was getting to a point that a lot of people were interviewing me and wanted to know who I was going out with. It was like I was hiding something.
So, the experience has made you to hate men?
Not hatred. But it is going to make it difficult for me to choose. It was really bad because that was not the first person I would go out with, but that one was serious. He got married about a month later to someone who was pregnant. It is good that I am telling you now, because I met an American who said he loved me as a comedian. He was the one that encouraged me to try and talk about what happened to me as a way of getting over it. It was serious, because I thought I was going to die. At times, I would think that I would sleep and not wake up. I was scared, but thank God for my friends and my mum who really encouraged me to live and forget about it.
Maybe he left you because you were becoming overbearing or more popular…
We discussed it before and he said he didn't care. I don't know what happened and I don't believe I am that popular. So many have tried to say many things, but I don't know. I actually went back to him to find out what happened, but he didn't give any reason. Anyway, he is not educated. But a lot of people didn't know because he has a good personality. I think I fell for his good manners. I was discussing with some people and they said he might have been told that his low education might affect our relationship in future.
Did you fall for him because you loved him or he was the only one available?
No, he wasn't the only one. Believe me. He is a very intelligent person. He was very nice. I just found him to be okay. After some time, I fell madly in love with him. And when you are in that kind of situation, there are so many things he would do that you would not consider or see. Then, when it happened, some people came to me and said I should have known this or that. But I told them, 'it's good for you to tell me this, but have you thought about the level of the love?' If you love someone, it is a different thing. Although most of my friends supported me. Some of them even said I should have been dating two people so that if one did not work, the other would. But I told them I could not do that.
Do you still feel hurt?
Yes, till date, because it made me appear like a fool; because everybody led me on, I felt deceived.