Jimi Olusola is the eldest son of late culture icon, Ambassador Segun Olusola and his wife, Mrs. Elsie Olusola. Like her husband, Elsie, was strong on the acting legacy as she was popularly known as Sisi Clara, in the unforgettable TV drama series, Village Headmaster which, as created by her husband, ran for many years on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). Jimi, who is at present based in the United Kingdom, spoke to FLORA ONWUDIWE on carrying on his legendary father’s legacy, plans towards the 50th anniversary of Village Headmaster among sundry issues.
As a firm believer in the legacies of your father, what plans do you have towards the African Refugee Foundation (AREF) and the Ajibulu Moniya Gallery?
I have not abandoned AREF; just that the NGO has metamorphosed into a Think-Tank under the leadership of our Honourable President, Chief Mrs. Opral Benson, OON. In fact, I’m in the middle of strengthening collaborative efforts between AREF and the Refugees Study Centre in the UK. You would recall that at inception, we did as much as we could do empowering other NGOs around towards focusing on the refugee phenomenon. This was when we started emphasis on the A (Anticipating disasters) and the R stages (Rehabilitating victims). We’re in the E and F stages.
E stands for Encouraging Peace and F for Facilitating development. On the second point, the Ajibulu Moniya Gallery is still fully functional. It is a private, not-for-profit outfit. In the old man’s days, it was devoted to the development of arts, dance, exhibitions and used as space for many artistic endeavours.
It remains so and all the creative and cultural organisations you are familiar with still come around occasionally to utilise the space. We also hold different workshops and seminars in the arts, music and entertainment at Plot 49 Babs Animashaun, Surulere which also serves as the corporate headquarters ofA REF. Their legacies have come to stay and we believe strongly in them. I’m myself a broadcaster, writer, poet, journalist, arts administrator and civic engagement and social commentator, all of which I inherited genetically.
Shortly after the death of your father, you left for United Kingdom; what are you engaged in currently?
Currently, I’m on a sabbatical, pursuing interests in the fields of Development, Advocacy and Human Relations.I’m an International Fellow of the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio and currently involved in some dialogue with other Fellows developing more strategic inputs in strengthening Deliberative Democracy globally.
The long rested Village Headmaster your father created would be 50 years in October. Recently, some of the surviving legends visited the Olowu of Owu, Oba Sanya Dosumu, in Ogun State, for his support for the commemoration of its 50th anniversary. What is your commitment towards the event’s success?
The Village Headmaster’s creation and its upcoming 50th anniversary are signs that it’s a good product and is here to stay for eternity, despite not being performed for over two decades. Unfortunately, Uncle Tunde Oloyede, one of the pioneers producers/ directors, passed on in the process of breathing new life into Village Headmaster.
Of course, all the pioneer members of cast and those around have my utmost respects. They were part of the process and many of our elders including Kabiyesi Sanya Dosunmu, Alagba Segun Sofowote. Dr Christopher Kolade and so many others were instrumental in making it a great series. I assure you that there are committees in place to see to the successful implementation of the 50th anniversary.
What do you miss about your parents?
We miss our parents dearly as we were brought up under the strictest discipline available. More so, they were multi lingual and detribalised.
What do you miss about your mum?
I miss her geographical spread when it comes to cooking but all my sisters (Ete, Edomi, Toyin) and my wife, Bola Olusola III, have stood in the gap so far in that respect.
How did you see the coming together of your mother and father?
The ambassador and the socialite actress were made for each other.
Did you often watch your mother in her acting days?
We watched her act hundreds of times, over and over again.
Was there any similarities between her roles on set and when she was at home in real life?
It became second nature. She was always acting, in real life, and on the stage. She was an erudite socialite, and the old man was her Mentor, despite her encumbrances.
How much did such inter-tribal marriage shape you while growing up?
Their union gave birth to an elaborate and well thought out family exchange programme between the Yoruba, Ishekiri and the Kalabari cultures. There were smatterings of an international flavour too. We ate all kinds of local and continental dishes.
With your mother and father having made their exit from earth, would you say God was in a hurry to take them away?
When mum died, it seemed a great void opened up but the old man capably filled it with his approach to life. My Family (my wife, Bola, sisters, Ete, Edomi and Toyin, and my Kids Dami, Tolu, Timi and Tumi) and associates are my pride and joy. They have contributed in no small measure in my life.
What fond memories do you hold of both your dad and mum?
Mum was boisterous, fun loving, sometimes too harsh a disciplinarian while dad was the cool, calm and collected opposite. Their mentalities and attitudes co-habited gratefully and seamlessly. We loved them to bits.
Who among them influenced your growing up more?
Both parents influenced our growing up. Mom, with all the fun and fury while you had to appreciate dad for his measured and philosophical approach towards our growing up.
What are those things you learnt from both of them?
The Ten Commandments were never too far from our parents’ lips.The most important words we learnt growing up were : “Please,” “thank you” and “sorry.” In dad’s later years his maxim became: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of our Creator.”
As much as what many of them are doing is commendable, how do you deal with the perception that those who set up NGOs do so as a way of making money?
Not all NGOs are created to make quick money. There may be some but quite a number are working in the right direction. Just like you have fake news, even fake professionals in all genres of life, they exist in the Ngo fraternity as well.
What is your philosophy?
Life is here to stay. You and I will pass through life. Life consists of time, space and activity. It’s moulded by those you interact. Everyone with common sense knows the difference between good and bad. Performing that difference as an individual, in my view, creates life. That’s why there’s nothing new under the sun.
At what point in life did you begin serving humanity, was it before or after the demise of your father?
Since my growing years, I became influenced supporting humanity, not just by my parents, but by quite a number of their friends and associates. They were always there for people, rich, poor, big or small etc. I saw how they influenced people positively. When AREF was founded, the old man spent his entire life savings keeping the foundation afloat. He was always preaching Peace. He gave what he didn’t have. Here was I, independent, living life and really carrying on with the normal flora of existence. I could see the glow of satisfaction each time the old man solved a human challenge. It set people like him apart in my view. And so, I knew that for one to be truly alive you have to try as much as possible to ensure that your neighbour doesn’t die an avoidable death.
How much did being a son of a diplomat pave way for you in the creative/entertainment industry?
As much as possible, I live outside the shadow of my parents. As to their being famous, that’s a matter of personal opinion
Now that we have Nigerians who are refugees in their own country, is AREF thinking of accommodating them in the near future?
Nigeria is on a path of awareness. The current political leadership had said it all….”Before we bloom and blossom, we will shrink and shrivel, but bloom and blossom we will.” The almost 3 million IDPs in the country is an unfortunate development. We at the Foundation will continue to lend our support especially in the area of advocacy because “refugees and IDPs don’t fall from the sky – they are products of man’s inhumanity to man.
With you based in the UK mostly, any likelihood that AREF might become headquartered in the UK?
I’m not creating any new headquarters for AREF abroad. AREF is headquartered in Nigeria but we have volunteers globally. AREF has Volunteer offices in the UK, US, Finland, Germany. Our Honorary Consultants who run their own personal businesses and outfits help manage our relationships in the diaspora.
What did you actually set out to do while growing up?
In my mind, I thought I would study law, but I found out that working in the Arts, Media and Administration while growing up encompassed all the salient aspects of law……without the legal technicalities, so I chose to become a Broadcast Journalist. Our set at the then Ogun State Polytechnic was the pioneer Mass Communication group. I worked with the NTA Network news from 1980-90 under very talented media practitioners that moulded me including Chris Anyawu, late Yinka Craig, Frank Oliseh, Lola Ogunbambi, John and Sola Momoh, Sceine Allwell -Brown among others.
Did you ever imagine that you would run an NGO?
Running an NGO is a voluntary activity. It’s a passion I inculcated from my parents and family. Uncles like Dr Chris Kolade, Otunba Yinka Lawal Solarin, Aremo Taiwo Alimi, Kabiyesi Gbenga Sonuga, Jerome Elaiho, Amb Dele Banjoko and of course our indefatigable Hon President, Chief Mrs Opral Benson among others, encouraged me to run the foundation. It’s a voluntary activity and we will continue to keep it running amidst the donour fatigue phenomenon.
How did your mates in school treat you as son of a respected actress?
I had wonderful classmates in Igbobi College. 73-80 set. And they are czars in their own rights, nationally and globally. I was just a son of another Nigerian citizen. We were too pre-occupied with other finer aspects of life to hold anyone in awe. We took ourselves for what we were and moved on.
Did your father and mother ever visit you in the university as the only son?
My old man came maybe twice to see me in school, mum came a few times more. My identity was moulded with all my colleagues from primary school till I finished my NYSC. Could you recall faces you used to see in your house while growing up? Faces… plenty. I’ve mentioned a few… Aunty Ibidun, members of Akesan Iperu Club, mummy belonged to so many clubs. NCWS, Zonta, business and professional women’s clubs. Remember she was a broadcaster, she worked with the Voice of America. There was Uncle George Bako, Uncle Lanre Akintola, Egbon Kunle Bamtefa, Bro Tony Ogunlana, late Alhaji Lateef Olayinka, late Prof Ekpo Eyo, late Prof Olubi Sodipo, too many to recall.
How did your father and mother liked to dress?
Mum was bestowed with the title of “Iya Oge of Iperu. She was quite fashionable and ran a couple of boutiques including Cinell and Kanell. She was a pioneer talents agency operator. Talent Associates is still alive and kicking. Dad was a Promoter of Nigerian culture and dressing, and that became a lot more pronounced when he became Ambassador of Nigeria to Ethiopia.
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