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Celebrating Olu Jacobs at 80

Since the demise of legendary filmmaker, Chief Hubert Adedeji Ogunde, popularly known as the Doyen of Nigerian Theatre, one actor has risen to the point of being canonised at home

Olu Jacobs

Since the demise of legendary filmmaker, Chief Hubert Adedeji Ogunde, popularly known as the Doyen of Nigerian Theatre, one actor who has risen to that point of being canonised at home is the indefatigable Oludotun Baiyewu Jacobs.

Known professionally as Olu Jacobs, the film producer and actor, whose career spans more than five decades, belongs to that group of elders representing the best of Nigeria on and outside the set.

A multi-award-winning actor and producer, he has been praised by many as one of the greatest and most widely respected African actors of his generation. He is considered a bridge between the old and new breed of actors, paving the way for much-emerging talent in the industry.

Jacobs’ 80 years on earth are profound gratitude to the industry. It is hard to get what is infuriating about the actor since he became a popular figure in Nollywood.

Jacobs’ career had a highly focused and fruitful trajectory: he made his mark in innovation and mentoring, both in Theatre Arts and in Nigeria’s movie industry.

Born on July 11, 1942, to parents from Egba Alake, Abeokuta, he spent his early childhood in Kano and attended Holy Trinity School, where he was a member of the debating and drama societies.

He is one of the artistes who could go to the market with their moral. He is an encouragement to the younger ones looking for a guide in an industry replete with a banana peel.

He has been described as ‘‘one of Nollywood’s finest actors, best role interpreter and the best manipulator of words.’’

Together with Pete Edochie, he is considered by several media, film commentators, critics, and other actors to be one of the most influential African actors of all time, and is widely regarded as a cultural icon.

His love for acting was inspired by Ogunde’s yearly concert party, which was held at Colonial Hotel in Kano, thereafter, he travelled to England, where he studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

In England, Jacobs appeared in various British television shows and series in the 1970s (including The Goodies, Barlow at Large, The Venturers, Angels, 1990, The Tomorrow People and The Professionals).

In 1978, he played the role of President Mageeba in Michael Codron’s presentation of Sir Tom Stoppard’s play, Night and Day.

In the 1980s, Jacobs appeared in several international films, including John Irvin’s war film, The Dogs of War, Roman Polanski’s adventure-comedy, Pirates (1986) and the family adventure film, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985). On television, he was a cast member in TVS’s The Witches and the Grinnygog.

He became one of the pioneers of Nollywood, acting as a father, an elder or a politician in more than 120 films, notably Oloibiri (2015) and The Royal Hibiscus Hotel (2017) in which his lead role successfully brought to the fore valued messages on national issues.

In 2007, Jacobs won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in Dancing Heart. In recognition of his immense contribution to Nigerian cinema, Jacobs was also awarded the Nigerian national honours, as a Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MON), in 2011.

He was also honoured with the prestigious Industry Merit Award for outstanding achievements in acting at the 2013 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards. AMAA also conferred its Lifetime Achievement Award on him in 2016.

He was also presented with the lifetime achievement award at the Africa International Film Festival. Jacobs is one of those who made good use of their skills to pursue a worthy career, benefiting their society and country.

Olu Jacobs is married to veteran actress Joke Silva. The couple founded and operates the Lufodo Group, a media corporation that consists of film production, distribution assets and the Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts.