Her distinctive, mellifluous voice wafts through the air wave. Millions of Nigerians glue their ears to their radio sets as she thrills them in her characteristic, dramatic fashion. She is exhilarating in delivery and passionate in her message. She can make you crack your ribs with laughter. Through the invisible air wave, one can sense her passion, devotion and dramatisation. She is one of a kind. She is Nigeria’s Lolo 1 – the madam who is the face of Wazobia FM’s ‘Oga Madam’ radio prgoramme. Born Omotunde Adebowale David, she has over the years excelled as one of the country’s best comediennes – on air, on stage or on the silver screen. Lolo 1 speaks with Azuka Ogujiuba about the fifth edition of Oga Madam on stage comedy show, going into acting, family and her relationship with her ex-husband
How did your Igbo accent come about?
Well, I grew up believing in one Nigeria. All my father’s tenants were Igbo. So then, I didn’t even notice that there was a cultural difference. It was when I grew up that I began to understand that there are differences among people, in terms of religions and ethnic groups. I think I’ve always had that kind of affinity since I was a child. But ‘Wazobia’ was a challenge. I’ve never spoken pidgin before. I’ve done Metro FM and Radio One but I like taking on challenges. If I’m going to do something, what will make anybody like it is the fact that I did it well. If I’m going to be impersonating an Igbo woman, then I must know their culture. I must know what they do, how they cook and how they dress. I never cooked like a Yoruba woman and you’ll not see me do omiobe. I will cook every classic onugbu like they cook it and those are the things I like to do. I research and listen.
Until your real name is mentioned people don’t place you as a Yoruba woman.
Yes. But it’s a good thing; that means that what I do, I do it very well. The day you see me play a typical Yoruba woman, when my ‘Mama Risika’ character comes out, you will be amazed. My Yoruba nature is there; it’s just that I haven’t used it for anything prominent yet. But if I have to play the role of a Yoruba person, you’ll see that my Ijebu (nature) fluently displayed.
How did you learn to cook Igbo food?
I learnt that from market women. Whenever I go to the market and I tell somebody that I want to cook ofe Owerri and ask ingredients to use. I ask basic questions and I get useful answers. I love to cook. So, when I get home I apply the instructions and the cooking always comes out nice. So there is nothing you cannot do if you put your mind to it.
As a comedienne, how do you feel about your celebrity status, being one of the best comic acts in Nigeria?
Maybe, it’s because I am on radio. I’m constantly on air and so a lot of people get to listen to me. it is also important to note that women are different from men. Women multitask. Hardly will you find any woman who is into comedy only. We have shops; we have other jobs; we have homes to keep; and children are there too. Maybe it is because I do my comic acts on a regular basis so that makes people see my face every day. Now there’s ‘Jenifa’s Diary’ in which I play the role of Adaku. So people get to see me in different shapes. I think that’s part of what is making the brand a little bigger.
You are also a master of ceremony.
I’ve been doing that for a long time. Of course, I compere at corporate events weddings naming ceremonies, and many other events as long as I am being paid well? There is nothing like being expensive. I tell people that the premium you place on yourself endures. The fact that someone says her shop is N50, 000 and that I might not be able to afford it, doesn’t mean it’s too pricey. It only means it’s out of one’s league. A Porsche is a car and a Toyota Corolla is a car, but it’s the affordability of the two that makes the buying.
Some are beginning to feel you will soon leave radio for the silver screen. Is that correct?
Well, I want to say that everything has its own time. I love being on radio. I’m not going to leave radio for anything. I love acting too but as long as one can put set one’s priorities right, one can be on radio and on the silver screen. So it depends on which side of me you’re calling. If you want the acting side of me I give it to you and if you want the MC, I give it to you. If you want the mother, I give it to you. So everything is inside me. I’m not going to let any limit be placed on my abilities because what we celebrate is the fact that one can do so many things and do it very well.
You’ve had to work with Funke Akindele so fervently that one begins to wonder if you will have time for other things.
Everything is timing. We went to London recently to shoot Jenifa’s Diary Season 7 and 8. I worked it out to coincide. Most of the scenes we shot in Jenifa’s Diary were done in the afternoon. I close at 3pm and once I closed in the office I went to the location for shooting. Funke Akindele is an extremely hard-working woman. I’m not saying it because she gave me a role but I’ve seen her work. She’s not a producer that sleeps while you’re on set. She’s there so she can push you – and I want to give her my best. I can’t say I’m tired if I say I want to achieve good things. Bill Gate and other people we celebrate, they don’t sleep. If you want to achieve something good in this life, you must be willing to make sacrifices and that’s hard work – that’s what I do.
Can you talk about your family?
I have four amazing kids. I have three sons and a daughter. I am single. I met a lot of people saying, ‘Oh my God, this entertainer is divorced.’ Yes, my divorce is a mutual thing. It’s nothing to fight or quarrel about. My family life is private. I will not drag the father of my children on the pages of newspapers. He doesn’t deserve that. It’s not a quarrel; we might have issues that we are dealing with personally as people. But it doesn’t mean that we now have to go and talk about each other (in the public). He’s the father of my children. I respect him for that. It is an important reason we do not talk about it (divorce) on the pages of newspapers.
You said if you would remarry, you’ll go for an Igbo man.
Well, it doesn’t matter where anybody comes from. I gravitate towards an individual. It’s who you are as a person that matters. It’s not where you come from. So, I’m not looking at anybody based on tribe even though it’s not like I’m shopping.
Is that an indication that you want to give marriage a second chance?
I’ll leave that in God’s hands. You know, if you’ve gone through a situation and you didn’t do well, I think it’s time to withdraw into myself – learn a few things about why this (the marriage) didn’t work and what I did wrong. So when I’ve learnt my lesson and healed internally, then maybe I will consider it. It takes time for one to be able to go through it (divorce). Marriage is not a walk in the park like people think. It’s something one signs up for forever and one has a break. That shows one didn’t do some things right. So, as an individual, one needs to get internal healing and work on one’s own personality. So that when one gets into another relationship, one would have learnt her lessons from the previous marriage.
Are there chances for reconciliation with your ex?
Oh well, I’m not God. Everybody is a work in progress. It’s just that people in the media judge very harshly; because we live our life before people. But I’ve done my best to make it (failed marriage) work and I don’t make it a general topic. It’s a family issue. We’re dealing with it our own way.
What kind of childhood did you have?
I had a very independent childhood. I stayed in the hostel from primary three. So, I’ve been independent for a long time. I schooled in Ijebu-Ode Anglican Girls and I stayed in the hostel half of the time. That’s where my independence and creativity came from. I was always called to make impromptu speeches. I won a lot of laurels for my school in debates, impromptu speeches and so on.
Did your parents approve of your decision to pursue a career in the media?
No. You know how parents are then. Even my legal profession was chosen by them. I just got my JAMB form and they filled it. When I told my mom I wanted to act and go into media work, she cried, thinking I would end up earning meagre income despite the years I spent in school studying Law. But now my mother will tell me she’s my fan. She calls ‘Mama Lolo’ and that’s because I have been successful. God is helping me to succeed in what I have chosen to do. And I think that settles everything.
Do you have any brand endorsement?
I have brand endorsements. I’m the brand ambassador for Lapo Microfinance Bank and also the brand ambassador for an estate company called, Acbridge. I am also the brand ambassador for Myads – it’s like a mobile app and I know more (of such opportunities) are still coming.
Let’s talk about your programme, ‘Oga Madam.’
This is the fifth edition and I’m so excited. This year’s edition is called the ‘Queens’ League.’ This means if you see a queen, you will see knights, you’ll see courtiers, you’ll see ladies-in-waiting. This year’s edition is going to be filled with drama, music, dance, and everything that I love to do. You don’t want to miss all that. The likes of Alibaba, Acapella, and other artistes will be involved. The event will hold on November 6, at the Shell Hall, Muson Centre. It starts at 5 pm. It’s going to be fun.
What’s the issue between you and Princess?
Well, the princess saga –of course, nobody is infallible – I’m just human and that means I can just get angry. We had a little misunderstanding, even though she might not see it as a misunderstanding. We were on stage together and I felt she slighted the rest of us there. I reacted to that slight because I believe that whatever we do, we should think of other individuals involved in it. It’s not just one person as a brand. I knew I vented (my emotion) but I didn’t let it stay too long. I didn’t take up to five minutes from my timeline before bloggers and everybody picked it up and it became something like a war. But you’ll notice that I didn’t make further comments because it was just in the moment. I’ve said my mind and that is it.
But have you resolved the issue with her?
Princess and I are colleagues in the industry. It doesn’t mean everybody is your best friend. We’re industry colleagues. Of course, when we meet at events we greet each other. It is not like I have a real relationship with her. But it doesn’t mean that we are enemies. She’s one of the prominent women who have stood up for comedy in time past, so she has that respect from me. It was just a personal issue that we had.
How do you relax?
I love to watch movies. I love water – I love swimming pools and I love the ocean, sea or anything water. It (swimming) is very relaxing for me. I love to read but I haven’t read as much as I used to. And I like to cook too. I cook for relaxation because I’m a foodie. A lot of times I just like to cook for people.
What’s your biggest cooking blunder?
It took me a long time to learn how to cook cow leg because I didn’t cook it as long as I should. So sometimes it could be so hard. Imagine when you have dinner and everybody is pulling on the meat. I had to learn how to cook cow leg and that it takes a long time and patience to boil it.
Are your children showing interest in the arts?
My daughter is very close to me. I know she’s going to do a lot of things that are art-inclined. My first son gravitates towards catering, food and engineering. My third son is basically an athlete. He loves to run; he loves taekwondo. But my youngest son is still forming his personality. We’re watching – he is going to be five. My first son is going to be 10. The other one just turned eight and my daughter is going to be 12 in February. As a parent, I don’t believe in deciding for my children. I groom their talents and by the time of their manifestation I want it to be that it’s something orchestrated by God. Let it not be that one is pushing one’s children out too early. I want my children to build their own personality and be their own person. So that when it is time for them to do what they have to do, they will do it well.
What outfit do you relax more in?
I think I like gown. I just love a dress that is easy to wear. You can dress it up, you can dress it down. But my least liked dress is boubou. I think it makes one look old and cumbersome. I’m not too tall so boubou is not my thing.
Which higher institution did you attend?
I went to Lagos State University where I studied Law. I went to Law School and I did all the honours.
You’ve been with Cool FM for some time. Did you start Wazobia with the radio station?
Well, I didn’t start Wazobia with them basically. I joined them like two years or a year after Wazobia started. So, I’ve been with Wazobia for eight years and still counting.
Did you meet Yaw while you were in school?
Yaw is my boss. We existed in different worlds while we were in school. I was in the Law department and I didn’t really gravitate towards the theatre in school. I just did fellowship. I was a fellowship girl. I didn’t really meet Yaw in school.
Despite your celebrity status, what makes you to be down to earth?
When I started, I got a word from God and He made me understand that there is nothing that I have that is not freely given to me. So what is the big deal? Something you didn’t create, why would you have special ownership of it and attitude? If you see me not smiling you should know that maybe I’m tired. But that I would become unapproachable is not something that I think I would ever do. That where my joy comes from. No one stops doing what brings her joy. Maybe when I get too big I’ll be thinking of security because some people might want to harm or hurt me and even if I do, they’ll just be somewhere. It’s not like I would walk on the street and everywhere you see me, there are battalions of guards protecting me. I didn’t steal anybody’s market, so I think I’ll be alright.
If you didn’t become a radio presenter or an actress, would you have established a big law firm?
I don’t think I would have carried on with legal practice to that point. I love entertainment law. If I was to choose I would have gone with entertainment law. When I was writing my project, it was on the rights of a performer; quite ironically. It was the only thing that I could really identify with and I did my project on it and it was excellent. I knew then that entertainment was inside me. Even if I wasn’t doing all this, if it had to be law I’m sure I would have focused basically on entertainment law or copyright law.