Thursday, February 19, 2015 5:30 pm
Julius Oyeyemi Shodimu, popularly known as Yemi Shodimu was 55 recently. The versatile Ikija, Abeokuta born actor, compere, radio and Tv presenter speaks with KAYODE APONMADE on his background, career and other issues
How do you feel at 55?
I feel healthy and energetic. And I am very grateful to God who has kept me for this long. I feel there is still a lot that I can still do creatively.
You grew up in the palace of Alake of Egba Land. Who was the Alake of Egba then and what is your relationship with him?
The late Oba Adeshina Gbadebo was my grandmother’s husband and my grandmother was Olori Adejoke Gbadebo. Oba Adeshina took special interest in me, and I guess it was because he detected some artistic things in me. I remember clearly that my very first mouth organ was given to me by him. It was a birthday present, and I wonder why he chose that. Well, I remember that he used to call me Adis-Ababa, and that was the first time I heard that name. I later discovered that it was in Ethiopia. He was a very good man, and my sojourn within the palace exposed me to a lot of our tradition and culture, the dances, the drums, the food, the greetings, the proverbs, the elders’ wisdom, the masquerades and royalty. I saw a lot of such things.
Tell us about growing up at the palace. Who were your peers?
I have just mentioned a bit about my days there. I won’t really be talking about peers because we were a bit shielded then. We probably played among ourselves, but I also remember that once in a while when I had the opportunity of interacting with the larger society, I had a rag-tag band made up of little children. We made musical instruments with sugar boxes and milk cans and all that. My grandmother was a music buff and the house was loaded with records (music albums). She had Calypso, Juju, Apala, Sakara, and other records. I therefore had an early exposure to the arts and I know that the little band I earlier mentioned sang a lot of Juju and Highlife musicians’ songs, and we enjoyed it. Little did we know that we were in one way or the other heading towards the arts proper.
What about your parents?
My father, the late Chief James Oyenola Shodimu was actually a popular banker. He was also a chief in Abeokuta, and I dare to say, a very handsome man. He was a bit of a ladies’ man. He was such a loving man who appreciated his culture and tradition and in his little ways tried to propagate that. My Mother, Alake, was a trader. A wonderful woman that sacrificed everything she had for her children. I miss her.
What happened at Eko Boys High School, did you write your WASC or HSC examination there?
I did my WASC at Eko Boys High School and my HSC at Abeokuta Grammar School.
Was it by choice or by accident that you studied Dramatic Arts at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University?
That was by choice. In actual fact, I remember clearly that when I filled my JAMB form, what I filled was Theatre, Theatre, Theatre, so, I was not looking at an option. That was my choice and it was informed by my early exposure to theatre, because quite early I saw stage performances particularly at the Centenary Hall in Abeokuta. I saw a lot of theatrical big names like Ogunde, Ogunmola, Duro Ladipo and Baba Sala(Victor Olaiya). My grandmother took us there to watch all these. This must have informed my choice.
A school of thought posits that life begins after Youth Service, how has the journey from that period for you?
My journey has been in the arts really. I actually served with the NYSC Theatre Group. That was my primary assignment. I was the president of the theatre group. We took our plays to the nooks and crannies of Kwara State using drama to see how we could positively impact on the young ones especially. And when I finished my service, the trend continued, except for the fact that the job with NTA Ilorin was waiting . I have been in it ever since.
As a bilingual actor, compere, and a radio and television presenter, which of the sectors do you find more convenient and profitable monetarily or economically?
I don’t know. Television and radio put one out there in the eyes of the public but it does not bring in much. Unfortunately in Nigeria, you pay to stay on air. It is sad. You bring the content, you work on the content, you do so much and you’re still expected to pay for your airtime. And then you run around looking for sponsorship, adverts and all that. It is a very exhausting experience. One is still on it because of one’s love for it. It could be a lot better. If I say I am comfortable, it is not from what I do on radio. There are many other things that I do outside, and we thank God for the energy and the talent. We thank God for His grace, but life could be a lot better in this country.
You are no doubt a leading figure in Nigeria’s movie industry who has featured in many movies and soap operas. Why have you not produced any film on your own?
Because I don’t want to feed pirates.
Is that all?
Basically, its because of that.
In a recent interview, you described subtitling of Yoruba movies as ‘criminal’, can you give a comprehensive explanation on this?
There is no comprehensive explanation than the fact that we produce films and give them to illiterates to subtitle and it’s a turn-off. These are productions beamed all over the globe. People out there will keep wondering whether Nigerians go to school at all. You see some subtitles and you hold your head and wonder where all that came from. I think we can do much better than this. we have been in a debate on this and I think stakeholders should put resources together and amend this anomaly. It’ a big anomaly and minus for the industry. I think like-minds within the industry should seriously think about this. There are young people out there who are probably loitering in the streets who could do a lot more than what these fake professionals are doing as far as subtitling is concerned.
Is that one of the steps you want to take to correct the anomaly?
We’ll see how it goes. I am in a discussion with some people
You recently relocated your popular English language radio programme Nostalgia With Yemi Shodimu to its present radio station, why did you quit the previous radio stations?
Because I was looking for a more conducive environment which I found in the present place which is Star FM. The arrangement of the station is a lot more convenient and professional. That’s where I am.
You were a former Senior Special Adviser on Information and Strategy to Ogun State former governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, what was your experience while it lasted?
The experience was enlightening and educative. I had the opportunity of seeing the good, the bad and the ugly sides of people, politicians and average men on the streets. I must say that I came out better that I went in.
With your experience while in government, will you like to take another shot at politics?
No, I am not in a hurry to do that. I think I should do a lot more in my professional calling.
Your YS & Associates and Shobam Vision are the producers of the rested ‘Ajaloleru’ on Radio Lagos and still on-air ‘Gbarada on LTV respectively, what is happening to ‘Ajaloleru’, Panadol Extra Game Show and Emu Shobam?
Emu Shobam is still selling, Emu Shobam is growing stronger by the day, and it is still spreading. That is bottled palm wine that we are into. Ajaloleru is a concept that will still find its way back on air. It is just that the environment is not too conducive for it. Ajaloleru has a lot of potentials. Panadol Extra Game is a sponsored show by GSK and it was very popular. They have started discussions about it. I guess it is the economy, but discussions are ongoing about bringing it back. I am involved with something else outside this called Challenge Arena. It is a sports and entertainment quiz show and I think you should watch out for it.
What is this synergy between you and Chief Ebenezer Obey all about?
I love his music and I respect his person. I have followed his music for many years. In actual fact, when I finished my NYSC, the only thing I wanted to do was to be a member of his band. One way or the other, it just didn’t work out because the person that was to introduce me formally passed on. So, there was a communication breakdown. However, I love his music and I push it out there through my programmes. Chief Ebenezer Obey who is now an Evangelist is someone that I have a lot of respect and admiration for. It’s a father and son relationship.
How do you relax?
I play Lawn Tennis and watch television. I also baby seat and wife seat.
At 55, are you fulfilled?
I am still living. We cannot talk about being fulfilled because we still have aspirations and things we want to do. But I am a happy man, a contented man.