Femi… sure and steady steps of a ‘faithful Branch’ at 51
When he clocked 50 last year, the theatre and movie industry of which Femi Branch is a major player, paused to celebrate him. Friends, family and colleagues ensured that the consummate stage and screen actor, poet, playwright, theatre producer and director was garlanded with flowers to mark his attaining 50.
Even Femi himself acknowledged in a latter interview that he was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love from home and abroad on his climbing what he described as the fifth floor of his journey through life.
“Well, it felt great, I am thankful to God for the grace of another lease of life. The fact that my friends and colleagues came out in their numbers to celebrate me was a most humbling experience,’’ was his terse remarks after a well-attended shindig.
A year after, May 14 to be precise, and the award-winning actor who holds the traditional title of Jagun Asa of Ede is celebrating. This time, his 51st birthday. And to mark the day, the father of two, who is originally from Odesenbor in Ijebu North East Local Council of Ogun State merely took to his social media handles to share pictures of himself and to wish himself a happy birthday.
The little boy that was born on Thursday, 14th of May 1970, is now 51 years old today! Happy Birthday Jagun Asa,” he wrote.
Seconds after he made the post, tributes poured in from all over, all eulogizing the dark-hued actor who is respected for his commitment, craft and devotion to screen and theatre production.
Published poet and playwright and a product of the Dramatic Arts Department of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Osun State, Femi’s journey as an actor began way back in the early 90’s as a student of OAU. The star of Domino and other notable screen productions such as Iwalewa, A Place in the Stars and The Triangle was a major part of some of the department’s production including Orisun, a movie that was produced by the members of staff of Obafemi Awolowo University.
The debonair actor moved from campus to the turf and got his big break as a leading actor in one of Nigeria’s long running television soap Domino, where he played the role of Oscar and he played the role to the hilt. He courted the admiration of television viewers and became a household name. Till now, fans still talk about how he was believable in the role of the tough looking Oscar.
Star of some of the sectors critically acclaimed movies such as Away from Home, Twisted, and Abela Pupa, Femi was born David Babafemi Mauton Osunkoya to Otunba Gbolade and Chief Mrs Modupe Osunkoya. However, the actor took a personal decision to change his surname from Osunkoya to Branch because as he explained there was nothing worthy in the name ‘Osun’ which the family had over the years clung to.
He further explained that the urge to change the name grew after he realised that every name has its spiritual influences.
“I had a problem with the name right from childhood and I told myself that whenever God gives me the opportunity to have a change of name, I will change my name. So, when I felt I was old enough to take certain personal decisions, I turned my second name to Branch. I adopted the name Branch from the Bible, which describes Jesus Christ as a faithful Branch. So, that’s how the name ‘Branch’ came to be,” he clarified.
A recipient of a number of industry awards, including Special Recognition Award, Ambassadors O. A. U. Ile Ife and Actor of the Year, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ogun State, he has written, produced, directed and featured in a number of stage productions including Queen Moremi the Musical, Itakun, and Man talk woman talk. Other notable stage productions in his pouch include Eniyan – Everyman, Private Lies, A Husbands Wife, Behold my redeemer and Death and the Kings Horseman.
“I love live theatre; I can skip a movie appearance to feature in a live theatre production. I mean, there is nothing like acting on stage. I am fulfilled as an actor anytime I have the opportunity of taking part in a stage production; theatre is life,” he enthused.
An actor whose greatest acting influence include the veteran actors Olu Jacobs, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett and Richard Mofe Damijo, Femi’s most memorable day yet was the day he was conferred with a chieftaincy title in Oyo State—Jagun Asa of Edeland by the Alaafin of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi III.
“It is a day I won’t forget,’’ he said, adding. “it is particularly memorable because my Nollywood family turned up as well to honour my Traditional Father Timi Agbale Olofa Ina. It was also a singular honour and privilege to have been given a traditional title and drafted into the highly exalted office of the elders fold of Yorubaland. This could only have been God.”
Author of 409 page Anthology of Fifty Poems and Three Plays titled From Senbora published in 2010 and producer and Writer of the 2005 Movie titled Away From Home, Femi says he is thankful to God for his journey here so far. In the words of the star of hit television productions such as Behind the siege, Blaze of glory and Desperate housewives Africa, “Well, I’m thankful for how far my creator has brought me, but of course, one can only wish for more. When we stop aspiring as they say, we start expiring.”
Asked if there is anything he would have done differently having climbed the fifth floor of life, Femi whose latest screen appearance include Bling Lagosians and Ajoche replied: “So many, but I guess one major one is that I would have preferred a profession, which gives me more time with my family; this job is so jealous that it hardly gives you time for anything else, family inclusive. But we have learnt to manage our time so we can have time for family and also have time to continue to entertain and put smiles on the faces of people. I am in this for life. There is no retirement as you know.”
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