Nigerian film actress Omotola Jalande-Ekeinde

Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde: Tale Of An African Jewel

Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde – Tell me the story of a hero whose path to glory bore no setback, show me that part of the world where achievers had no critic or perhaps that home where happiness never for once saw misunderstanding and sincerely, with every gathered vim inside of me, I’ll forever appreciate your knowledge.

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Not a many writers would etch the difficulties in the life of our all-time celebrities, and then maybe you weren’t aware Oscar Wilde had issues with the law for involvement with male prostitutes in his days, then George Eliot real names Mary Anne, that lady writer who chose to be identified as a man in order to be taken serious as a writer back then and though an awesome fellow, was often considered amazingly ugly.

Shakespeare wasn’t born a saint either and definitely so many in his days would have opposed his many actions, just as many only capitalized on Michael Jackson’s mistakes singing songs of his many flaws, ignoring his many achievements. However, alot seems to no longer matter when our legends are gone, but still doesn’t erase the facts they weren’t born invincible either.

Not the perfect African woman, just like many of us seem to seek in celebrities or our humbly wives, concubines or girlfriends, but in her own little ways, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde has joined the list of those African women who against all odds dared above being just a wife and mother, despite the many slandering criticisms from so many, myself included. The undisputed mother of Princess, M.J, Meriah and Michael who kept going strong with her struggle to remain a singer and successful actress when many understand how hard it is to mix the three jobs together; acting, singing and devoted parenting, even though her “Omotola’s Diary” column with The Sun Newspapers doesn’t totally qualify her as a writer.

Born Omotola Jalade, the first born and the only girl into a family of three to parents, Mr. & Mrs. Shola Jalade on Tuesday, February 7, 1978, both now deceased; Omotola began her path to getting educated at Chrisland Nursery School in Opebi and Oxford Children School, Santos Layout respectively, both in Lagos State. While her two brothers, Tayo and Bolaji never really gave up on education, she also decided to do more, journeying to the North for Command Secondary School, Kaduna which she later crowned with a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Estate Management at the prestigious Yaba College of Technology in that bubbling Lagos suburb. And over the years, there have been talks about her not getting a proper education and getting married at a tender age out of frustration.

Though she grew up as a hard-to-get-through-to child whose mother wondered if she’ll ever get married, Omotola found love gradually in Captain Matthew Ekeinde, a pilot while she was sixteen and her husband, twenty-six. The Introduction, Courtship & Wedding In The Skies In 1994, Matthew, who claimed to be ready for a marriage back then, was introduced to Omotola by his immediate elder sister as quite a young girl in her church, but beautiful. And since sixteen was perhaps a rather too young age to be married, Matthew decided to wait another two years before popping that big question, “Will you marry me?” I believe.

Though there were rumour of possible indecent acts coming from a twenty-six to a 16-year-old girl back then, the lovebirds looked like they actually maintained that distance till that supposed-to-last-forever knot was tied. After getting married at the Ikeja Marriage Registry on Saturday, March 23, 1996, Omotola and her husband decided to try something different and they went on to have a white wedding aboard a DASH 7 aircraft of Israeli airline, Skyline, where her husband was working as a pilot at that time, flying from Lagos to Benin, on Thursday, April 19, 2001.

DASH 7 is the name later given to de Haviland Canada DHC-7 aircraft which its pre-production began in late 1972. It can take up to two crew members, about forty-eight passengers and was empowered with a 4 X P & W Aircraft Canada PT6A – 50 turboprop, 835KW engine. Headquartered in Lagos State, Skyline is a three fleet sized airline which began operations in Nigeria in 1999 and ceased operations in 2003, after 4years of serving Nigerians locally, with its primary and secondary hubs in Port Harcourt Airport and owned by Arkia Israeli Airlines Ltd.

The Nollywood Trip
There were claims and talks that Omotola started acting in 1993, in a movie titled, Iva, but because the habit of keeping records is not one well instilled in most of us back in the days, no-one can possibly produce at least a VHS copy of this film, so it was generally agreed upon that her first role was in 1995, in the movie, Venom of Justice. However, Omotola didn’t make that big break until she starred as a sickle cell patient wrestling survival despite the fact she understood her chances for living was slim, but later had a child that survived in the 1995 top-rated movie, Mortal Inheritance.

And since her supposed debut in 1995, she stayed strong featuring in almost every hit Nollywood movie from Scores to settle in 1998 to Brave Heart in 2005, before the forced break in 2005, which marked a large hole in the hearts of so many of her fans.

The Ban
In 2005, Omotola and some of the A-listed actors of Nollywood like Richard Mofe-Damijo, Genevieve Nnaji, Stella Damasus-Aboderin, Nkem Owoh, Ramsey Noah and Pete Edochie, were banned for one year by the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria (AGN) for charging producers too high. This ban marked the age of the likes of Genevieve Nnaji’s break into music with the song, “No More,” starting the rumour of Nollywood’s biggest stars quitting acting for singing.

The Music, the Criticism & the Never Say Die Spirit
Perhaps, so that her idle hands don’t go into places she might live to regret, Omotola also dabbed into music, dropping her debut album, Gba, in 2005 with hit singles like “Honey Boy,” “Dance” ft. Ruggedman and “Naija Lowa (Gba)” ft. Six O under a Omotola, simply coined stage name, since changed to, “Omo T.”

The album was critically condemned by so many who insisted she’s got no talent at singing and should have just waited till AGN lifted her one-year ban. With the masses screaming she’s got no talent and the entire album regarded as a total waste of money and time, not even Naija Lowa did the magic of placing her rightfully in the music industry.

Though the album was showered with massive airplay and well publicized plus the featuring of top-rated artistes from that time, it went down as a wasted effort with so many. Some even concluded they wouldn’t accept it if it was a gift for free-for no-cent charge. And many wondered if she wasn’t informed of the many rejecting remarks of Gba, when again, the beautiful act hit the Nigerian market with a second album, Me, Myself & Eyes on Saturday, September 24, 2010.

Another album which took perhaps too many blows than the first, Gba. Though she featured the likes of Mode 9 and Harry Song, so many Nigerians won’t just buy as they kept wondering which track actually really made sense on the first album. Just like they did Jim Iyke’s rapper wannabe skills, Genevieve Nnaji’s striving-to-get-out singing talent and Nkem “Osuofia” Owoh smothered talents, the people concluded that Omotola has got no business singing.

The 2011 Butt-Grabbing Grammy Awards Shoe-Pincher
And in 2011, so many journalists took several blows at Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, accusing her of possibly cheating on her husband, Captain Matthew Ekeinde when spotted in an almost-butt-grabbing picture with another man at the 53rd Grammy Awards on Sunday, February 13, 2011. One of the many questions remained, “why in God’s name didn’t this man keep his hands to himself when he knew he was escorting a married woman?”

Bad news of course often travels faster than the exalting ones. Rumours reaching her husband reportedly tested the amount of trust in their marriage, bringing up the assumptions of the couple’s talks on getting a divorce. The celebrity out of bitterness, even though many still insisted it was a silly shot to be taking as a married woman, lamented that,

“People have insinuated all kinds of things and read numerous meaning to what was nothing but an innocuous picture taken of me and a member of my new management team at the Grammys. The picture was an innocent one, signifying nothing. I have been married to my husband for 15-years now, and I say this loud and clear that I have never cheated on him, and would never do so ever! Remember I said in an interview I granted you in 2009, that yes, I have been tempted numerous times to violate my marital vows, but I have always resisted the temptation to do anything that would bring dishonour to my marriage and my children. If I told you – as a popular actress that we have not been tempted, I would be lying to you. But should one sacrifice all what one has built, nurtured and worked hard to establish just because you want to indulge in some ill-motivated affair? No. I don’t believe in that.

“I count myself blessed to have married a perfect gentleman, a man who has supported me throughout my years in the industry, and is still there, as a rock of Gibraltar. My husband is a rare find, and no amount of temptation will ever make me cheat on him. So the notion or the rumour that my haters and nay Sayers have spread to the effect that the guy at the Grammys was my boyfriend is ludicrous to say the least. If I wanted to cheat on my husband, would I do that in the open? Would I advertise my boyfriend for everyone to see and at such a public function? Just analyze that logically – would that be a commonsensical thing to do? This rumour is really a sick one and I’m offended. My husband is my soul-mate and I will never soil or put that trust in jeopardy – no matter what and the extent of the temptation. It is not worth it.”

No matter what Omotola said or did to clear the air about the said photograph, she somehow still went down the black-book as a member of the many cheating wives of Nollywood. And not even the words of her husband, Matthew during an interview with The Sun Newspaper, “I trust my wife to the extent that, even if she’s in bed with a man, naked, nothing can happen,” seems to move any of them.

Omotola Youth Empowerment Programme (OYEP) & the Critics Again
The Amnesty International ambassador who joined other international stars like Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean), Jeremy Irons (The Merchant of Venice), Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Patricia Clarkson (The Green Mile), for the Art for Amnesty programme targeted at fighting the cause to clean up Nigeria’s Niger Delta in 2012, also had a share of condemnation in her charity endeavours. Omotola’s initiative, Omotola Youth Empowerment Programme (OYEP) some months back did makeover for twenty widows in Nigeria. A charitable move which to her really made sense, as she’s believed to have actually put a smile on the faces of these widows.

Save The Children education ambassador: Katie Melua, Samantha Morton and Nigerian film actress Omotola Jalande-Ekiede

Despite the fact that OYEP was nominated for the Nigerian Events Awards, in the Best Charity/Cause category, so many still gave their bitter views on the make-over programme, on and off social networks:
“Doesn’t she understand what youth means? I thought her foundation is focused at youths and not widows…”

“Makeovers? Mtchew! And they called that something? How will they maintain this? Does she even think about that before doing this? What about some money to do actual business?”
“Does this woman ever give up at doing silly things?”

However, Omotola’s impact as an ambassador with Amnesty International can never be erased or disregarded. She single-handedly launched Amnesty International’s maternal mortality campaign in Sierra Leone and supports Nigeria’s campaign for freedom of expression. And even though many back home do not acknowledge this as a great work of impacting lives, those who felt appreciated gave their many thanks.

The Nollywood Comeback
After the ban was lifted, it was back to business as usual, the supposed hit to mark the beginning of the phase two of her acting career was, Total War in 2007, and she has remained active ever since. Doing what she knows how to do best, playing the many roles she’s good at, leaving her many critics with another pile of work to chew-through. In total, Omotola is claimed to have starred in over two hundred movies including Last Flight to Abuja.

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