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Olu Jacobs: 80 rhythmic beats for the grandmaster of stage and screen

By Shaibu Husseini
09 July 2022   |   4:07 am
Though he will be exactly 80 on July 11, garlands have started pouring in from home and abroad for the multi-award winning veteran, deep and accomplished actor Oludotun Jacobs.

Though he will be exactly 80 on July 11, garlands have started pouring in from home and abroad for the multi-award winning veteran, deep and accomplished actor Oludotun Jacobs. Fans, friends, and colleagues both young and old have since July 1, been dropping birthday messages for the actor, husband, father, grandfather and mentor who has had a robust, impressive and outstanding career as an actor and showbiz personality.

It took a throwback picture of the actor shared by his wife Ajoke Silva Jacobs on Instagram for the encomium to pour in. The veteran actress had captioned the photo thus: “Who has the foggiest idea who this handsome young man is? #80th birthday loading.”

Eulogies rolled in few seconds after the award-winning actress hit the send button. Yul Edochie, son of the veteran actor Pete Edochie took to his social media handle to eulogise the actor of innumerable credit whose skills and stagecraft has lifted him to the enviable status of a world-class actor.

Yul wrote: “When I started my acting career in 2005, one of my biggest wishes was to be on set with the Legendary Uncle Olu Jacobs. I finally got that opportunity many times and I learnt so much from him. And I’ll forever be grateful. A very happy 80th birthday to you Sir, may God be with you always. We love you.”

Kannywood actor Uzee Usman also celebrated the octogenarian actor when he wrote: “Old age is a blessing, grey hair is a rare privilege only few get to enjoy. Happy birthday to one of Nollywood’s finest, a living legend, and an award-winning actor, Daddy Olu Jacobs. May God continue to bless you with good health and wellness. I celebrate you, Daddy.”

An actor of innumerable credit whose charisma and manner of delivery is considered legendary and whose infectious baritone and interpretation of roles are director’s delights, Oludotun Baiyewu Jacobs was born to Josiah and Juliana Akoke Jacobs in 1942. A native of Abeokuta in Ogun State and the fifth child in a family of eight, Olu Jacobs, as the actor is simply called, grew up in Kano where he became a visible member of the Boys Scout and a member of the Anglican Church Choir. In fact, he revealed that he started his Christian life as an altar boy.

An actor’s actor of immense rating, Jacobs never had difficulties deciding on a career path. All he wanted to do as a child was to “just entertain,” as he stressed. He got the kick to step up when he encountered the late dramatist and doyen of Nigerian Theatre Chief Hubert Adedeji Ogunde and his band of entertainers during one of their tours to Kano. Jacob was only seven then, but he did all he could to be at every show of the group each time they visited Kano. He recalled that the more he saw the doyen and his group in performance, the more his mind was made up on a career path.

One day, Jacobs walked up to his father and declared that he wanted to head to England to study drama. But Daddy would not want to hear that. To have his way and so that there will be “peace at home,” he agreed to head to England to study Law.

“I later sent him a lengthy letter to say that it was drama that I was studying and not law. I was told later that he was furious, but I think mummy helped in talking to him and that was how daddy had to give in, because I was already enrolled in the best acting school in the world,’’ he enthused.

Believed to be about the first black actor to have been well received in England, Jacobs was formally educated at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in England. On completion of his training at the Academy, Jacobs faced what he termed a cutthroat situation.

“You cannot get a job without an agent, and no agent will take you unless you had worked. And there is no way you are going to get a job without being a member of the equity which is like a union,” he explained.

However, Jacobs got an agent who stood for him after he was offered a role in a BBC production. He travelled all around Great Britain to work with a number of repertory theatre companies. He also worked extensively on television and on stage and as he did, the star of the epic movie, Ashanti, starring William Holden, and Omar Sheriff made impressions.

Recipient of the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) award for best actor, Jacobs who is also a recipient of the Life Time Achievement Awards of both the AMAA and the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA), returned to Nigeria in the 80’s after a successful acting career in England. His major take back home was as a lead actor in the long rested Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) detective series, Third Eye.

He hinted that what he got as fees was not encouraging at all, but he was not discouraged. He stayed on and was to later be part of a number of stage and television productions including Vigilante, by AA production. As he did, his popularity soared.

In fact, he became so famous and revered that producers ensured that stories were written around him. Today, he holds the reputation of featuring in over 200 home video productions, about 100 stage production and 30 television programmes in Nigeria alone. To add his credits while in England would mean filling up a twenty-leaf notebook.

Married to the award-winning actress AJoke Silva, Jacob explained that he met Joke in 1981 while at the National Theatre for a production meeting. He stated that he declared that he was going to marry Joke as soon as he set his eyes on her.

“I was having a meeting about a production in the National Theatre when the door opened and this beautiful lady walked in. Immediately, I said ladies and gentlemen, this is the lady I am going to marry. And we had never met before. She just looked at me and left. After that, we became friends and five years later got married. And I must say that my marriage is one marriage that is built on trust, on friendship, love, respect and understanding. And luckily, we are in the same profession.”

Uncle Olu has no regret threading this path. He says he will do it again given another opportunity.

“I will take to acting again. My happiest moments are those moments when I am working either on stage or screen. I have enjoyed my work and the challenges. But I am delighted to see that things are really changing. Albeit slowly, but the changes are coming and the good things in life are worth waiting for. So, I will do it again. I have no regret at all,” he enthused.